Stults gets his third start of the season Monday night as the Dodgers open a four-game series with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Stults (2-0, 0.60 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers (38-43). After giving up one earned run in six innings in his season debut against Cincinnati on June 19, he threw a four-hitter in a 5-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.
“You don’t see too many shutouts in baseball anymore, because you’ve got guys in the bullpen whose jobs are to throw that eighth and ninth inning,” he said. “So anytime you can throw a shutout, it’s something special.”
Stults, who had seven starts and 11 relief appearances under his belt coming into this season, has never faced Houston (39-43). He failed to make the team in spring training, but was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on June 17 when Brad Penny went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder.
“It’s very unfortunate that injuries are what caused this to happen, but I’m just trying to take advantage of whatever number of starts I get up here,” Stults said.
The Dodgers could use another strong outing from Stults, as they have been held to one or no runs in four of their last six games. Los Angeles got just three hits and lost 1-0 to the Angels on Sunday, one day after winning 1-0 on an unearned run, despite failing to get a hit.
Making matters worse, the Dodgers now could be without left fielder Juan Pierre, who left Sunday’s game in the sixth inning with a left knee injury. Pierre will have an MRI Monday and is day-to-day.
Still, the Dodgers’ pitching has picked up the slack lately, allowing three runs over the last five games, including three shutouts.
The Astros took two of three from Boston over the weekend, including Sunday’s 3-2 win. Mark Loretta, who had a three-run homer in Saturday’s 11-10 victory, added a pinch-hit, go-ahead single in the eighth in the series finale.
Houston has won six of nine after dropping eight in a row.
“That’s as good a team as we’ve played all year, and to win a series from them is meaningful,” Loretta said. “We still have a long way to go. We have not played well in June.”
Ace Roy Oswalt (6-8, 4.77) will try to keep the Astros rolling against the Dodgers.
Oswalt went seven innings on Wednesday and gave up three runs in a 3-2 loss to Texas. His eight losses this season matches his total from 2006 and is one more than he had last season.
“It’s been a little bit more of a rough year for (Oswalt),” teammate Lance Berkman, who is tied for the NL lead with 67 RBIs, told the Astros’ official team Web site. “When he’s pitched well, it seems like we haven’t really given him that much run support.”
Oswalt is 4-3 with a 3.96 ERA in seven career appearances - six starts - against the Dodgers.
The Astros swept the first series between the teams this season, winning three games at Dodger Stadium May 9-11 by a combined 20-6 score. Houston has won seven of nine at home against the Dodgers dating to the start of the 2005 season.