Enjoying an unexpected resurgence in Los Angeles, Wilson Alvarez just wants to reward the Dodgers for giving him an opportunity.
“Hopefully, I’ll keep it going,” the veteran left-hander said of his recent success. “I owe it to the organization for giving me a chance. I don’t want to let them down.”
Alvarez aims to continue his successful comeback as the Dodgers look to avoid a three-game sweep to the NL Central-leading Houston Astros at Minute Maid Stadium.
The one-time Chicago White Sox ace, Alvarez began the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. He was promoted June 7 to help fortify the Dodgers’ bullpen but was thrust into the rotation when Japanese southpaw Kazuhisa Ishii went down with a knee injury on Aug. 2.
He has been nearly unhittable since.
Alvarez, 33, has allowed just one earned run and 11 hits over 20 innings in his three starts, striking out 20 and walking three. He scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings in Los Angeles’ 4-1, 10-inning win over Montreal last Wednesday, striking out six and walking two.
However, he can’t quite explain his success.
“The only thing I can tell you is location,” Alvarez said. “I’m hitting spots. That’s the biggest difference. That and making good pitches when I really need it.
“So I throw it right there, and they’re popping it up or hitting it at somebody. Really, I don’t know what’s going on.”
The Dodgers have dropped four straight, including Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Astros. Los Angeles remained 2 1/2 games out in the NL wild card race, because co-leaders Philadelphia and Florida also lost.
The Astros have won three straight to remain one game ahead of second-place St. Louis in the Central.
Jeff Bagwell became the 13th player in major league history to hit 30 or more homers in eight consecutive seasons Wednesday, launching a three-run homer in a four-run first inning. He is hitting .308 (44-for-143) over his last 41 games with 15 homers, 36 RBIs and 34 runs scored.
“Every win is big right now,” Bagwell said. “We’ve got 30 games left right now, and we’re going to have to find a way to come out one game ahead.”
STANDINGS: Dodgers - 3rd place, 13 GB, NL West. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Alvarez (2-1, 2.36 ERA). Opponents are hitting .206 and have an on-base percentage of .271 against Alvarez, who has 54 strikeouts and 14 walks over 53 1-3 innings this season.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Tim Redding (8-12, 3.70 ERA). Redding is 0-3 with a 3.50 ERA over his last three starts and hasn’t won since a 2-1 triumph over Florida on Aug. 1. The 25-year-old right-hander was reached for three runs and four hits over six innings in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Cincinnati, striking out seven but walking four. He makes his first career start against Los Angeles.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .285 avg.; Jeromy Burnitz, 25 HRs; Adrian Beltre, 64 RBIs; Shawn Green, 65 runs; Dave Roberts, 33 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .301 avg.; Bagwell, 30 HRs, 90 runs and 8 SBs; Lance Berkman, 78 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - 1B Fred McGriff is hitting .397 (23-for-58) in his career at Minute Maid Park. … C Lo Duca has thrown out 11 of the last 17 runners attempting to steal. … 3B Beltre drove in the Dodgers’ lone run Wednesday and has 23 RBIs since the beginning of August. Astros - Houston is 61-2 this season when leading after eight innings. … C Brad Ausmus hit just .201 during the first half of the season but is batting .301 (31-for-103) since the All-Star break. … Injured RHP Roy Oswalt is getting closer to returning to the rotation. He threw 20 minutes off the mound on Tuesday and will throw on the side again Friday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 30-35 on the road; Astros - 41-26 at home.
INJURIES: Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Ishii (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL. Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Oswalt (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL.