Garciaparra's slam powers Dodgers

Nomar's slam powers Dodgers

HOUSTON -- Nomar Garciaparra didn't want Takashi Saito to feel bad. So Nomar made the Houston Astros feel really bad.

Garciaparra, in only his second game off the disabled list, hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a come-from-behind win, 6-2, over the Houston Astros on Monday night.

Saito looked like he might be the losing pitcher after he gave up a solo home run to Lance Berkman in the eighth inning. The rookie reliever from Miyagi, Japan speaks through an interpreter, but he knows enough English to understand what Garciaparra was saying to him after the half-inning.

"When I came into the dugout, Nomar and Bill Mueller both came up to me and said, 'Hey, don't worry. It happens,'" Saito said. "After he hit the ball, I knew he had said it like he knew we always had a chance to come back to win the game. I was happy beyond belief."

So was Garciaparra, although he was considerably more subdued.

"It was nice," Garciaparra said. "But the most pleasing thing about it was the way our pitchers threw the ball. Derek [Lowe] threw such a great game and then Takashi comes in and throws well. But that was a devastating blow. Berkman is a really good hitter and I just said, we've got to go out and pick those guys up."

Garciaparra, who missed 17 games with a strained right intercostal, came back to play against Arizona on Saturday and went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. He then sat out Sunday's game as manager Grady Little said he didn't want to rush him back too fast.

On Monday, he was 0-for-2 with a walk when he came up against Astros star closer Brad Lidge in the ninth. He hit the pitch to deep left-center. It was Garciaparra's sixth career grand slam and the fact that it came against the Astros All-Star reliever was not lost on the Dodgers.

"He knows how to pitch," Garciaparra said of Lidge. "He's a guy whose slider looks like he can throw it four times in the dirt and walk you, or he'll throw it three times and hit the outside corner and strike you out."

"What was big was Kenny Lofton getting that triple to start it off," Garciaparra added. "To a pitcher, that's big because he knows the tying run is 90 feet away. Then J.D. [Drew] and Jeff Kent walked and that set it up. I just threw the barrel at it and got lucky."

Kent said Garciaparra deserved much of the credit.

"We know Lidge," Kent said. "He's been around a long time and he's a great closer. With any great closer, you've got to have patience. Nomar showed a lot of patience."

Following the game, Lidge had no excuses.

"My location, in general, has been fine so far," said Lidge, who blew a save for the first time in eight opportunities this season. "I think tonight, unfortunately, the situation was such that I didn't have great location and I had to try to make pitches that I was going to get out of the strike zone to get guys to swing and miss."

Added Lidge: "With Kenny Lofton at third base, I have to try to get a strikeout or an infield ground ball. I made some pitches that were too low and out of the strike zone.

Catcher Dioner Navarro's RBI drove in Jose Cruz Jr., who had doubled, for the Dodgers' final run in the five-run inning. Before the outburst, they could do very little with Andy Pettitte and the Astros didn't fare much better against Lowe.

Pettitte went seven innings and allowed one run on only one hit, while striking out five.

"Pettitte did a great job, the kind I've come to expect of him while facing him so many times in the American League," Garciaparra said. "But so did Derek."

Lowe virtually matched Pettitte pitch for pitch, going seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits while striking out four.

"I'm really pleased with the outing Derek gave us," manager Grady Little said. "Pettitte was really good. He had outstanding command all day long. I've seen him that way many times and tonight was no different. But Derek pitched just as well."

Pitching against Pettitte had something to do with Lowe's performance.

"It was like pitching against [Chicago's] Carlos Zambrano last week," Lowe said. "You look forward to matchups like that. Then you look up and Pettitte has a no-hitter and you know you have to pitch your best to keep up. It was a great game for us to win."

Drew broke up the no-hitter up with one out in the seventh, hitting his fourth home run of the season to tie it at 1. Drew, who is off to a .339 start, has reached base in all 17 games he has played this season.

Jim Carley is a contributor for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.