Kevin Brown looks to win consecutive starts for the first time in 2 1/2 months, and help the Los Angeles Dodgers keep pace in the NL wild-card race as they complete a three-game series with the Houston Astros.
The veteran right-hander has struggled to get victories since winning seven straight starts during a stretch in which he went 9-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 10 outings. He is 3-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 12 starts since.
Brown, who made two relief appearances against Houston last year, will be making his first start against the Astros since June 20, 2000.
The Dodgers are coming off a 4-1 win Tuesday in the middle game of the series, as Eric Gagne set a major league record with his 55th consecutive save.
Fred McGriff hit two homers to give him 491 for his career as Los Angeles moved into third place in the NL wild-card race. The Dodgers are 1 1/2 games behind Florida and Philadelphia, and a half-game ahead of fourth-place Houston.
Gagne, in only his second season as a closer, preserved the victory for Wilson Alvarez by retiring the last four batters to break the previous record for consecutive saves, set by Tom Gordon from April 19, 1998-June 5, 1999, with the Boston Red Sox.
The right-hander leads the majors with 47 saves—the most ever to begin a season without a miss—after setting a Dodgers franchise record last year with 52 in 56 chances.
“The last couple of years have been amazing,” Gagne said. “Every time I go out there I try to get three or four outs as quick as possible. They play eight innings to give me the lead, so I don’t want to go out there and blow it.”
The Astros fell a half-game back of St. Louis in the NL Central following the Cardinals’ doubleheader split at Chicago.
STANDINGS: Astros - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, NL Central. Dodgers - 2nd place, 12 GB, NL West.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Jeriome Robertson (12-7, 5.18 ERA). The 26-year-old left-hander has struggled the last six weeks, following a stretch in he won seven straight starts and 10 straight decisions, spanning 13 outings. Robertson is 2-4 with a 7.34 ERA in his last seven starts. He gave up five earned runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in the Astros’ 7-1 loss to San Diego last Friday.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Brown (13-7, 2.26 ERA). Brown gave up four runs and three hits in seven innings of a 6-4 win over Colorado last Friday. He is 3-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 11 career appearances, including nine starts, against the Astros.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .302 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 31 HRs, 94 runs and 9 SBs; Jeff Kent, 82 RBIs. Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .283 avg.; Jeromy Burnitz, 26 HRs and 68 RBIs; Shawn Green, 70 runs; Dave Roberts, 36 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - RHP Roy Oswalt, on the disabled list for the third time this season because of a right groin strain, threw 60 pitches without discomfort in a four-inning simulated game. He’s tentatively scheduled to return to the rotation Monday night at Milwaukee. … The Astros will stay on rotation despite the off day Thursday. RHP Jared Fernandez, LHP Ron Villone and RHP Wade Miller will all pitch on five days’ rest in San Diego this weekend. … RHP Kirk Saarloos, RHP Kirk Bullinger and OF Colin Porter joined the Astros on Tuesday after being called up from Triple-A New Orleans, one day after the Zephyrs’ final game of the season. Dodgers - RHP Gagne’s only blown save this season came in the All-Star game. He hasn’t squandered a lead during the regular season since Aug. 26, 2002, when Arizona’s David Dellucci hit a tying RBI double in the ninth inning. … OF Green, who has only 12 homers and 62 RBIs in 135 games, confirmed a published report in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times that he has been playing with discomfort in the back of his right shoulder since spring training. … Green’s 45th double tied his career high, set in 1999 with Toronto.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 30-37 on the road; Dodgers - 41-30 at home.
INJURIES: 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. Dodgers - OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL.
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