Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, left, is congratulated by pitcher Clayton… (Bob Levey / Getty Images )
It is not required during the course of a season that all victories must be works of art. Mangled, difficult and uncomfortable victories, they ultimately count just the same.
The Dodgers defeated the Astros, 3-1, on Friday night in Houston, and if many of the ingredients appeared familiar -- another home run by Matt Kemp, another RBI from Andre Ethier, more dazzling defense from Jerr yHairston Jr. -- there were also several cover-the-eyes moments.
Most of which were provided by left-hander Ted Lilly, who was the model of efficiency in his first outing, but never could seem to find any rhythm Friday. Unless you consider six walks and a hit batter remarkable tempo.
Lilly, however, benefited from an early lead provided by Kemp, who is only visiting our planet to play a little baseball.
Kemp hit a two-run homer off Houston starter J.A. Happin in the first inning. For those keeping track, that would be his eighth home run in the Dodgers’ first 14 games. It also left him with 20 RBIs, and both figures lead the major leagues.
Kemp is one RBI ahead of Ethier, who singled in a run in the third for RBI No. 19.
Lilly, who walked only one and did not allow a run in the seven innings of his first start, then went about walking the tight rope in Houston, helped along plenty by Hairston.
The one run Lilly did give up actually did not involve any of his six walks –- the most walks he’s issued in one game in six years. In the fourth inning, Brian Bogusevic singled, stole second and scored on a Chris Snyder base hit.
But Lilly was back in trouble in the fifth inning, when Hairston made his most significant defensive play. Second baseman Jose Altuve walked and, with one out, stole second base and advanced to third on an infield single by J.D. Martinez off Lilly’s glove.
The Astros should have had a run when Carlos Lee flied out to Juan Rivera in left, but Altuve tagged, took a few steps and then for some reason retreated to third. Meanwhile, Martinez tagged and advanced to second. Rivera doesn’t have the best arm, but already trailing 3-1, Houston elected not to gamble.
That proved costly after Lilly intentionally walked Chris Johnson to load the bases for shortstop Jed Lowrie, who promptly hit a bullet at Hairston.
Hairston dived toward the line but tried to backhand the drive. The ball bounced off his glove into foul territory, but Hairston barehanded the ball and dived with his outstretched hand to the bag, just nipping Martinez for the force out.
Hairston, filling in for the sore-wristed Juan Uribe at third base, also made an outstanding play in the third inning. Altuve hit a ball hard off his glove and it ricocheted deep down the line in foul territory. It appeared an easy double.
But Hairston hustled after the ball -- and in one motion -- slid, scooped up the ball, spun and, while in midair, fired to second base in time to easily nail a stunned Altuve.
Lilly (2-0) went six innings, and in addition to the six walks, gave up four hits and struck out five.
The young bullpen trio of Josh Lindblom, Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra were again stellar, with Guerra pitching the ninth inning to earn his seventh save.
It was enough to leave the Dodgers 11-3 to start the season.
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