Dodgers spurned by Biggio's slam

Dodgers spurned by Biggio's slam

HOUSTON -- The careers of Craig Biggio and Rudy Seanez intersected in the sixth inning Tuesday night.

At the plate was the 41-year-old Biggio, a likely Hall of Famer who announced earlier in the day he would retire at the end of this season from his only club of 20 years. On the mound was the 38-year-old journeyman Seanez, now struggling for his umpteenth organization in his 22nd professional season, having already allowed two inherited runners to score and trying to hang on.

Instead, Seanez hung a slider and Biggio did what great players do, belting his fourth career grand slam to lift the Astros to a 7-4 victory over the Dodgers.

Luis Gonzalez -- a teammate of Biggio's for six years who attended the pregame retirement announcement -- was conflicted with the result.

"You hate to lose a game," said Gonzo, "but the way it played out, you couldn't have scripted it any better for him to come up in that situation and hit a big home run. I respect everything the guy's done in the game and in the community. It was just meant for him to come up and get that hit."

Maybe so. But Chad Billingsley's complete game Monday night aside, the loss was a reminder that the Dodgers are still in pitching crisis mode, which is why management is trying to shore up the bullpen before next week's trade deadline. The bullpen has suffered the Dodgers' last three losses.

Closer Takashi Saito hasn't pitched in nearly a week. Randy Wolf makes a rehab start Wednesday night, but still could be more than a week from returning. Jason Schmidt, well, he's out for the year and the Dodgers can only hope it doesn't take that long to recover from his loss, but they are feeling it now through a domino effect that has relievers starting and starters relieving.

Seanez had been a workhorse throughout the first half, but seems to have hit a wall recently. After allowing only three home runs over 42 1/3 innings, he's been shelled for five homers in the last 4 2/3 innings. He hasn't lost his velocity, but he's teeing up sliders belt-high and over the plate.

"He's been throwing the ball pretty good. He just made a mistake and Biggio didn't miss it," said catcher Russell Martin.

Martin had an RBI double in the eighth inning, then left the game with tightness in his buttocks area. He wouldn't even call it an injury.

"It's just been stiff a couple of days," he said. "It's not really an issue. You wake up and it's stiff and you stretch before the game, and I felt it on the swing before [the double]. It's something I can play through, so I play through it. This would be easy if you felt great every time. It's definitely not an injury."

Whatever it is, it might explain why Martin struck out in his two previous at-bats and fanned three times while going 0-for-5 Sunday.

Seanez came on in relief of Mark Hendrickson, whose role seems to change daily. His previous start July 17 was his worst of the year (three innings and seven earned runs), then he became an emergency reliever for two innings July 19.

Against the Astros, he allowed a first-inning run on a wild pitch and kept Houston scoreless over the next four innings, protecting a 3-1 lead. But the sixth inning started with a single by Lance Berkman and a double by Carlos Lee and at the 83-pitch mark, manager Grady Little called on Seanez, who was greeted by Morgan Ensberg's tying two-run double inside third base.

"Then he kind of fell apart," Little said of Seanez, who loaded the bases with a pair of walks for Biggio to unload them one pitch after a meeting at the mound with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

"I don't know what he told him," Little said of Honeycutt, "but I hope he doesn't tell him that much more."

The final two innings for the Dodgers were handled by Eric Hull, making his Major League debut without allowing a hit.

Little seemed more annoyed with his offense than the bullpen breakdown. It scored three runs in the second inning on Jeff Kent's 14th homer, an RBI double by James Loney and an RBI grounder by Andre Ethier. But the Dodgers went 18 batters without a hit at one point, all but abandoning the patient approach that has been a key in the resurgence since Bill Mueller took over as hitting coach last month.

"We were a little bit out of character with the way they've been most successful the last three or four weeks, being patient at the plate and seeing pitches," said Little. "There was a spell of five or six straight outs on the first pitch. That's totally out of what we've been doing recently. Tomorrow we need to get back into that mode and see if we can go forward. It hasn't happened in awhile, but it happened tonight.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.