Reporting from Houston
One oddity of Minute Maid Park — and no, not the grassy incline in center field called Tal's Hill — is how the wall in left-center field juts out in the power alley, pushing the wall back to the 362-foot mark.
Two consecutive Houston Astros hit fly balls there in the 10th inning Friday; left fielder Jay Gibbons caught the first one, but the second one, hit by Michael Bourn, went past Gibbons' glove for a triple and the potential winning run.
But Dodgers reliever Octavio Dotel struck out the next two batters to quell the threat and, in the 11th inning, Gibbons answered with a long ball of his own by slamming a two-run home run that lifted the Dodgers past the Astros, 4-2.
Gibbons entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and drove in Matt Kemp, who had tripled, with a single. Kemp also singled before Gibbons' home run.
The four-hour victory ended the Dodgers' six-game losing streak and averted what could have been the latest example of the Dodgers' recent habit of wasting strong outings by their starting pitchers with lackluster run production of their own. Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda gave up only one run and four hits in six innings.
"Kuroda did another great job," Manager Joe Torre said. "I was just glad we pitched the way we did at the end" with Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Dotel holding the Astros scoreless in the last four innings and Dotel earning the win.
Gibbons, the Southern Californian who was called up from triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 8 after a lengthy absence from the major leagues, hit his home run off left-handed reliever Fernando Abad.
"I hadn't faced a lefty in a while, so I was just trying to keep my front shoulder on the ball, make good contact and take an easy swing," Gibbons said.
Gibbons had another anxious moment in the bottom of the 11th when Humberto Quintero hit a fly ball that Gibbons said he lost in the lights; it initially was ruled an error but later revised to a hit. Either way, it didn't cost the Dodgers.
As for the two balls hit to Gibbons in the 10th inning, "it's definitely an adventure out there," he said. "I found out real quickly that it's kind of confusing.
"The first one stayed a little bit more to the right and I was able to see it," Gibbons said. "The second one, I think, went over the stands and might have nicked the wall on the way down. I totally lost it and that wasn't fun."
The Dodgers first scored against Houston starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning when Jamey Carroll singled home Rod Barajas. Houston tied it in the seventh inning on a run-scoring single by Bourn.
Hard-throwing rookie reliever Kenley Jansen, a former catcher who only started pitching last year, has continued to impress since being called up July 23 from double-A Chattanooga.
The right-hander from Curacao had held opposing batters to a .150 batting average and allowed two earned runs in 172/3 innings for a 1.02 earned-run average.
Jansen, 22, credited "good instruction" from his minor league pitching coaches Danny Darwin (Chattanooga) and Charlie Hough (single-A San Bernardino).
"Both of them told me to just stand up and fire at home, be aggressive, don't try to complicate stuff, don't worry about mechanics right now," Jansen said. "So when I came up here, I just trusted what I have."
Torre said first baseman John Lindsey, who was called up this week after spending 16 years in the minor leagues, would start Saturday's game.
And in a farewell move, Torre said veteran catcher Brad Ausmus — who has said this is his last season as a player — would start the series finale Sunday because Ausmus spent several years with the Astros.