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Dodgers can't hold it together in 4-3 loss to Houston

They give up a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning as rookie Kenley Jansen falters mightily in closer role.

May 23, 2011|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Houston — Kenley Jansen repeatedly needed to make one pitch.

It never came among the 38 he threw.

By the time the Dodgers' fill-in closer walked off the mound Monday night during a disastrous ninth inning, he had secured only two outs and the Houston Astros were celebrating a wild, come-from-behind 4-3 victory at Minute Maid Park.

"We couldn't let him go much further as far as pitches," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said, "but it was pretty much his game."

It was Jansen's game to lose after Hunter Pence laced his final pitch to left field for a single that drove in Michael Bourn with the winning run.

With erstwhile closers Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Vicente Padilla on the disabled list, the Dodgers entrusted a two-run lead to Jansen entering the ninth. Jansen proceeded to give up three hits and a walk and hit a batter, falling behind five of the seven batters he faced.

"My stuff wasn't there," the rookie conceded.

Jansen's implosion wasted a solid six-inning effort by Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and a clutch pinch-hit single by Andre Ethier in the seventh inning that had provided a 3-1 lead.

Matt Kemp also hit the 100th homer of his career and second baseman Aaron Miles had a single in his return from a sore rib-cage muscle that had sidelined him for four games.

"It's just something when your team's not playing well, it's one more thing to add to the checklist," said Kershaw, who gave up one run and four hits in six innings. Relievers Mike MacDougal and Matt Guerrier each followed with a scoreless inning before Jansen took the mound.

In a sign of things to come, Jansen (1-1) fell behind leadoff hitter Chris Johnson, three balls and no strikes, before recovering to strike him out.

Bill Hall then banged an 0-and-2 pitch off the left-field scoreboard for a single. But Jansen appeared to be on the brink of an uneventful inning when he struck out pinch-hitter Matt Downs.

That's when pinch-hitter Angel Sanchez walked on an 11-pitch at-bat. Jansen said the battle with Sanchez "made me exhausted out there a little bit."

With no one warming in the bullpen, Jansen pressed on. But despite a heads up from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Jansen failed to keep close tabs on Hall and Sanchez before they completed a double steal.

"We just have to pay better attention than that," Mattingly said. "We just can't let them have that base. That was too easy."

Said Jansen: "I was checking the runners, but I'm focused more to get [the batter] out."

Jansen reached a full count on Bourn before giving up a two-run double past first baseman James Loney that tied the score. Jansen then hit Clint Barmes with a pitch before Pence ripped Jansen's pitch over shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Bourn beat a strong throw from left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., extending his hand under catcher Dioner Navarro to touch home plate. "He just got his hand in there," Navarro said. "Good throw, good play, better slide."

Just like that, the Astros were mobbing each other in the infield and the Dodgers were contemplating a seemingly unfathomable loss against the team with the worst record in the National League.

"They were better than me today," Jansen said. "I just have to let it go and make sure I get in tomorrow and be better and get some outs again."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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