Gary Sheffield is the hottest Dodger--but Jose Vizcaino isn't far behind.
Vizcaino continued his hot pace with a two-run home run Monday in the first inning of a 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Houston Astros.
After leadoff hitter Eric Young walked to open the game, Vizcaino hit a 1-and-0 pitch from Astro starter Jose Lima over the wall in the right-field corner for his third home run.
Vizcaino, who went two for four against Houston, has batted .428 in his last 10 games (18 for 42) with two homers and six RBIs. He has raised his average from .219 on May 16 to .278.
Moreover, Vizcaino has settled into the role in the batting order that Manager Bill Russell projected for him in spring training. He has solidified the No. 2 spot behind Young, which had been a revolving door in the season's first 40 games.
"We thought he could bat there, but he got off to a slow start," Russell said. "We had to take a look at some different options, but nothing really worked like we hoped it would.
"But Jose has made some things happen since getting back up there. He swinging a hot bat, and he gives us a lot of options with his bat control."
Vizcaino said the secret to his success is simple. He simply decided to relax and get back to basics.
"I'm just doing what I know how to do," said Vizcaino, who batted throughout the order for the San Francisco Giants last season.
"I was trying to do too many things at the plate before, and that was messing me up. I'm seeing the ball good now, I'm feeling comfortable at the plate, and I'm making good contact."
DODGERS' ISMAEL VALDES (4-5, 4.60 ERA) vs. ASTROS' SHANE REYNOLDS (4-3, 3.15 ERA)
Astrodome, 5 p.m. PDT
Radio--AM 1150, KWKW (1330).
* Update--Valdes defeated the Chicago Cubs, 7-3, last Thursday at Wrigley Field. That victory prevented the Dodgers from being swept in the three-game series by the Cubs in Chicago for the first time since 1972. Valdes has two victories in his last three starts, and he has pitched at least six innings in each game. "He's been taking positive steps in his last few games," pitching coach Glenn Gregson said. "But we're going to keep challenging him, because we need everything he can give us. And you're only good as your last start."