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DODGERS FYI

Andre Ethier's run-scoring single becomes footnote as Dodgers squander lead

Ethier, who is held out of the starting lineup against Houston, pinch-hits in the seventh inning with the score tied and two runners on base. Kenley Jansen's meltdown in the ninth leads to a 4-3 Dodgers loss.

May 23, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier hits a run-scoring single during the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros on Monday.
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier hits a run-scoring single during the… (Thomas Campbell / U.S. Presswire )

Reporting from Houston — Kenley Jansen's epic ninth-inning meltdown transformed Andre Ethier from hero to footnote.

After being held out of the starting lineup Monday against Houston at Minute Maid Park in the wake of his collision with an outfield fence the previous day, Ethier stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning with the score tied and two runners on base.

Astros starter Bud Norris badly fooled Ethier with his first two pitches, a pair of sliders that Ethier swung and missed. Then Ethier connected on a fastball that found more of the plate than perhaps Norris intended, driving the ball to center field for a run-scoring single.

A second run scored when center fielder Michael Bourn overran the ball for an error, giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead that evaporated two innings later in a 4-3 defeat.

"It's tough when it happens that way, but all losses are tough, especially when we haven't been playing well," Ethier said. "A loss is not fun at this point. It's definitely a bad habit we have to break."

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said he wasn't sure whether Ethier would start Tuesday, noting that the Astros are starting left-hander J.A. Happ. Ethier is hitting .311 overall but only .203 against left-handed pitchers.

Ethier said the left elbow, lower back and left big toe he injured Sunday in Chicago against the White Sox did not feel "overly sore" when he woke up Monday.

Barajas sidelined

Mattingly held Rod Barajas out against the Astros after the catcher said his sprained right wrist remained sore.

But an MRI exam on the wrist Barajas injured when he was spiked by the White Sox's Juan Pierre at home plate Sunday was negative, and Mattingly said backup catcher Dioner Navarro's ability to switch-hit might preclude the Dodgers from calling up an additional catcher unless it appeared Barajas might be sidelined for a lengthier stretch.

Russell Mitchell, who started at third base Monday, was the Dodgers' emergency catcher.

On the rise

One good thing about a low batting average in limited at-bats: It doesn't take much to spark a meteoric rise.

Rookie Jerry Sands saw his average climb from .200 to .241 in only two days after belting his first homer Saturday and going four for four on Sunday.

Sands attributed his surge to both adjustments and an increased comfort level that has come from sticking around in the major leagues for a second month.

"The first month in the league, you're trying to figure out what's going on and try to overcome a little bit of excitement trying to show what you've got and do too much," Sands said. "Comfort level is a big thing, the confidence of knowing that you can play up here is something that you need to show, but it's also something that you don't need to get a little over the top with.

"You get a couple of hits here and there and you think you've learned everything. This little bit of struggle has helped me because obviously I know I have to keep working and keep working harder."

Short hops

Wearing a Dodgers jersey and an Arizona Diamondbacks cap, Jose Lima Jr., the son of former Dodger and Houston Astros All-Star Jose Lima, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and received a warm round of applause. Monday was the one-year anniversary of his father's death from a heart attack at age 37. … In the first appearance of what is scheduled to be a two-outing rehabilitation assignment, reliever Blake Hawksworth gave up one run in one inning, with one walk and one strikeout for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. Hawksworth is scheduled to throw another inning Wednesday and could be activated as soon as Friday. … Third baseman Casey Blake was hitless in three at-bats with two strikeouts in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment for triple-A Albuquerque. Mattingly said Blake would need to sufficiently regain his timing at the plate before rejoining the Dodgers.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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