Minute Maid Park became one of Jeff Kent’s favorite places to play when he spent two seasons with the Houston Astros. Now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kent still makes the most of his yearly visits to Houston.
The second baseman looks to continue his hot hitting against his former club when he and the Dodgers continue a three-game series against the Astros on Tuesday.
Kent went 4-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs on Monday, leading Los Angeles (56-44) to a 10-2 win in the series opener. The five-time All-Star is batting .478 (11-for-23) in Houston since he left the Astros after the 2004 season. He is a career .325 hitter at Minute Maid.
With Monday’s performance, Kent has reached base safely in 34 straight games, the longest such streak in the majors this year. He is batting .347 during the run, which started June 8 against Toronto.
The Dodgers have won five straight road games, outscoring opponents 41-18 while batting .379 during that span. Los Angeles, though, had lost four of six - all at home - entering this series.
“It came at a good time for us,” said Dodgers manager Grady Little, whose team increased its NL West lead to two games over San Diego. “It was what we needed to get back on track.”
Houston (42-57), meanwhile, was held to three runs or fewer for the fourth straight game, and for the seventh time in 10 contests since the All-Star break.
The Astros have gone 3-7 in the second half to fall 15 games under .500. They haven’t been further below .500 since they finished the 2000 season 72-90.
“I am disappointed,” manager Phil Garner said. “We are disappointed to come back home, where we have been playing pretty good ball and I felt like yesterday’s (win at Pittsburgh) might have helped us a little bit, but we just didn’t muster any offense tonight.”
Houston’s offensive struggles could continue after losing rookie center fielder Hunter Pence to a wrist injury. Pence, whose .330 batting average is eighth overall in the NL, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
Jason Jennings (1-6, 4.76 ERA) will try to snap a career-worst five-start losing streak when he takes the mound for the Astros on Tuesday. Jennings has lost all five of his outings since beating the Los Angeles Angels on June 19 - his only win in 12 starts this season.
The right-hander gave up seven runs in five innings to lose 7-6 at Washington on Wednesday. He walked four batters, each of whom scored.
Jennings is 6-8 with a 4.16 ERA in 19 career starts against the Dodgers, who will hand the ball to another struggling pitcher - Mark Hendrickson (4-5, 4.54).
Los Angeles has lost five of Hendrickson’s last six starts. Last Tuesday, the 6-foot-9 left-hander gave up seven runs and 11 hits in three innings of a 15-3 loss to Philadelphia.
He appeared in relief on Thursday, allowing one run in two innings during a 13-9 loss to the New York Mets.
Hendrickson has never faced the Astros.