<
>

Rapid Reaction: Astros 3, Dodgers 2 (10)

HOUSTON -- Clayton Kershaw tried awfully hard to pull the Los Angeles Dodgers back from the brink, but their familiar bullpen issues put them back into crisis mode.

Closer Kenley Jansen, making his first appearance in a week, gave up the tying run in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros completed the rally with Jason Castro's walk-off home run off Chris Hatcher in the 10th for a 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park. The Dodgers have lost five straight games for the first time in more than two years.

Kershaw went eight strong innings, but the unreliable bullpen and slumping offense were too much to overcome.

How it happened: It’s perhaps a measure of how much respect teams -- or at least the Astros -- have for Kershaw that Carlos Gomez tried to steal home with two outs in the sixth inning. Gomez, sneaking down the line, got a great jump, but the pitch beat him and he was called out, a decision confirmed by a replay. While sliding headfirst, Gomez kicked catcher A.J. Ellis in the head with his left foot and Ellis lay flat on his back for a couple of minutes but stayed in the game. Kershaw appeared to say something to Gomez as he walked back to the dugout. The inning was fueled by a Carlos Correa soft roller that deflected off Kershaw’s left ankle to score Jose Altuve from first.

That was about all the action Houston could muster against Kershaw, who struck out 10 batters and didn’t walk anyone over eight innings.

The Dodgers’ offense didn’t exactly break out of its slump, but it managed to score a couple of runs against an intimidating young pitcher, Lance McCullers. Chase Utley legged his way to a run in the first inning. After a one-out double, he went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Justin Turner’s sacrifice fly. Ellis doubled and scored after two wild pitches in the fifth.

What it means: The Dodgers lost their fifth in a row and saw their division lead slip to one game, pending the outcome of Sunday night's San Francisco Giants-Pittsburgh Pirates game.

Notable: One reason the Dodgers have struggled at American League stadiums is that their designated hitters have been awful. They were 2-for-23 with seven strikeouts and no walks going into Sunday. Carl Crawford, Sunday’s DH, padded those numbers, striking out in all three plate appearances. ... Enrique Hernandez had a solid homecoming. The ex-Astro has, at least for now, displaced Joc Pederson as the starting center fielder. Getting a rare start against a right-handed pitcher, Hernandez had a single, got down a nearly perfect bunt and made a nice, if slightly awkward, catch up against the wall in the third inning. ... Evan Gattis started the seventh inning with a leadoff double and Kershaw fell behind the next two batters 3-and-0, but he struck out the side anyway, all with nasty sliders.

Up next: The Dodgers are off Monday before starting a three-game series in Cincinnati on Tuesday night.