Dodgers fall short after overcoming big deficit

Dodgers fall short after overcoming big deficit

HOUSTON -- The Dodgers probably didn't go into Sunday's game realistically thinking they could win. Not with a starting lineup that had three position players that were September callups and a rookie pitcher, Carlos Monasterios, who failed to complete the second inning.

Surprisingly, the Dodgers made a game out of it, and overcame a four-run deficit before losing, 7-4, to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

"You try to win with the people you have out there," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre.

No longer a playoff contender, the Dodgers are playing a number of young players for a sneak preview for 2011, and a resurgent veteran in Jay Gibbons. It was Gibbons' three-run, fourth-inning, upper-deck home run to right field cut that cut the deficit to 4-3 in the Dodgers' four-run inning.

Regardless of who is in the starting lineup for Los Angeles, the Dodgers aren't throwing in the towel on the season.

"This team has battled all year. It's a situation where Gibby hits a big home run and gets the momentum on our side," said third baseman Russ Mitchell, whose sacrifice fly tied the game at 4 and was his first Major League RBI. "And that's what we've got to do when we [youngsters] get up here, too.

John Lindsey, who spent 16 years in the Minors before playing in his first Major League game last week, had a fifth-inning pinch-hit single for his first big league hit.

"It was awesome," said Lindsey. "It was a breaking ball, and I saw it. I wanted to be ready when I got something to hit, and it was there and I put a good swing on it. It fell in for me."

The Dodgers also started shortstop Chin-Lung Hu, who went 0-for-4 in his first at-bats in the Majors, and center fielder Trent Oeltjen, who had his contract purchased by the Dodgers on Tuesday and had one of the Dodgers' seven hits.

"It's an adjustment period, especially in Lindsey's case and Mitchell's case," said Torre. "They weren't shy. They were hacking. They were comfortable, but we didn't get a lot out of it."

The Dodgers have gotten a lot out of Gibbons, who before Aug. 8 hadn't played in the Majors since 2007 with Baltimore. Gibbons' home run is his fifth, and he has 15 RBIs in only 43 at-bats this season.

"I can't explain the homers thing," said Gibbons, who is hitting .349 (15-for-43). "I'm just getting good pitches to hit."

"He knows what he's doing," said Torre. "I'm seeing a player that gives you a reason to look for more from him. I want to see more from him."

Because of his hot hitting, in addition to Scott Podsednik having a heel problem, Gibbons should see more time in left field.

But it's his hitting that's putting Gibbons back on the map. He crushed a slider off Astros starter Nelson Figueroa for his mammoth home run that put the Dodgers back into the game.

"The ball just went down into my sweet spot zone," said Gibbons, who connected on a Figueroa slider. "I got a good piece of it. A lot of times the off-speed stuff goes farther."

Until the fourth inning, the Dodgers had no answer for Figueroa, who faced the minimum number of batters through the first three innings. But that changed in the fourth, as the Dodgers had four hits -- including a triple from James Loney, who scored on Mitchell's sacrifice fly. Loney added a double in the sixth inning.

But it was Gibbons' home run that began the unraveling of Figueroa, the first of seven Astros pitchers.

"My pitch count was down and everything looked like it was smooth sailing," said Figueroa. "But I ran into a man named Gibbons. He hits a three-run home run on a slider in, and I have no idea why I threw a slider in to him. But I did. He deposited it in the upper deck."

Monasterios also had his problems. He didn't make it out of the second inning. And at times it looked like he wouldn't make it past the first inning.

In a 40-pitch first inning, Monasterios gave up five hits while allowing four runs, three earned. He gave up a Hunter Pence two-run home run and later a two-run single to Brett Wallace.

In 1 1/3 innings, Monasterios allowed five hits and two walks with two strikeouts on 61 pitches.

Right-hander Ramon Troncoso (1-3), the fourth of five Dodgers pitchers, took the loss. In two innings, he gave up five hits and two runs. Right-hander Octavio Dotel pitched the seventh and eighth and gave up an eighth-inning home run to Carlos Lee to close out the scoring.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.