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Dodgers pack little punch in 2-1 loss to Astros

A good showing by lefty Ted Lilly is wasted, and L.A. is done in by a ninth-inning single.

May 25, 2011|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Houston — The only thing the Dodgers appear to be pressuring is themselves.

They fielded a lineup Wednesday with six players batting below .250, one of whom Manager Don Mattingly conceded had been rushed back prematurely from the disabled list to bolster an injury-ravaged team.

Not that Rafael Furcal provided any offensive support during the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to Houston at Minute Maid Park that ended with the Astros' second walk-off hit of the series.

The shortstop, who returned Sunday from a nearly six-week absence, twice grounded out with runners in scoring position while going hitless in four at-bats. He is hitting .056 (one for 18) since being activated from the disabled list.

"It was just out of necessity we had to put him in there before he was honestly really ready," said Mattingly, whose team still has eight players on the disabled list and two others who are day to day.

The Dodgers had hoped Furcal could sufficiently regain his timing by accumulating 25 to 30 at-bats at triple-A Albuquerque. But his minor league rehabilitation assignment was cut short after only four games and 13 at-bats when he injured his left knee on a slide.

"He missed quite a bit of time and then really with that little knee thing, it kind of went three or four days where he couldn't play," Mattingly said.

Furcal's next game came with the Dodgers on Sunday, and he hasn't exactly looked major league-ready in his first four games back.

Then again, the entire Dodgers lineup had something of a spring training feel Wednesday. The Dodgers generated six hits, left eight runners on base and went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position, wasting a sterling six-inning performance from starter Ted Lilly in which the left-hander allowed one run, on Michael Bourn's leadoff homer in the first inning.

"I thought he would take, first pitch of the game," Lilly said, "but he didn't, and you could say it cost us the game."

Actually, it didn't. Matt Kemp hit his 12th home run, a solo shot in the sixth inning that moved him into a tie with Cincinnati's Jay Bruce and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the National League lead.

But even that feel-good moment was forgotten after J.R. Towles singled off Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier in the ninth inning, driving in pinch-runner Brian Bogusevic from second base to give the Astros only their fourth series victory of the season.

"We only scored one run," Kemp said, "and that's not going to win games."

Furcal had a chance to put the Dodgers ahead with two out in the fifth inning and runners on second and third base. He grounded out.

Two innings later, with two out and a runner on second, the Astros intentionally walked pinch-hitter Andre Ethier to face Furcal. He grounded out.

Furcal, who missed 37 games with a broken left thumb, pinned his offensive woes on timing, saying he was physically recovered from his injuries.

"I don't see any breaking balls in this series," Furcal said. "Everything is a fastball right in the middle and then I'm a little late sometimes and sometimes a little bit in front."

Kemp acknowledged a team that has produced one run or fewer 12 times in the season's first two months "might be pressing a little bit," but he pointed to the expected return of several players as reasons for optimism as the Dodgers embark on a stretch of 19 consecutive games against teams with winning records.

Third baseman Casey Blake could return from the disabled list when the Dodgers open a three-game series against the Florida Marlins on Friday at Dodger Stadium, and Ethier and catcher Rod Barajas are also expected back at close to full strength.

"Hopefully, it gets away from survival," Mattingly said, "and we just start getting it rolling."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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