Dodgers 7, Astros 4

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Jose Lima was only kidding earlier this week about letting the family of batterymate Paul Lo Duca use his luxury suite at Houston’s Minute Maid Park for the All-Star game.

After Lo Duca’s sensational weekend for the Los Angeles Dodgers—including his first career grand slam in Lima’s 7-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday—the right-hander might want to rethink his plans.

“I’m not getting that, so anybody who thinks it’s for my family is wrong,” Lo Duca said with a laugh. “My family came over and said, `Oh, we’re all sitting in the suite?’ and I said, `Naw, he was joking around.”’

Lima pitched six strong innings and got the win despite giving up a tying two-run homer in the sixth by Carlos Beltran, who was added to the NL All-Star team a few hours earlier as a replacement for the injured Ken Griffey Jr.

Jose Hernandez put the Dodgers back in front 3-2 with an RBI single in the sixth against Roy Oswalt (8-7).

Lo Duca, heading to his second straight All-Star game, extended the lead to 7-2 in the eighth. He drove a first-pitch slider to left off David Weathers for his ninth homer of the year, and third in the four-game series—including a three-run shot off Roger Clemens on Saturday.

“It feels great, my first grand slam. I’ll remember it,” Lo Duca said. “David struck me out last year with the bases loaded when he was with the Mets, but today he threw me a slider and I didn’t try to do too much. I hit it good—but in the daytime here, it travels a little bit more. At night, it probably gets caught. “

The Dodgers head into the All-Star break leading the NL West by a half-game over San Francisco after snapping Oswalt’s four-game winning streak, and improved to 48-38 with their 11th victory in 14 games.

It’s only the second time the Dodgers have been in first place at the break since 1994, when the postseason was canceled because of a players strike.

“It’s a good place to be, but we’ve still got half a season to go,” second baseman Alex Cora said. “We were in the same situation two years ago and we lost seven of the first 11 games, so we need to make sure we finish strong. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in July.”

It just might to the Astros, who dropped to 44-44—the first time they’ve been at .500 since April 11. The loss assured them of their first double-digit deficit in the standings at the break in 11 seasons.

“Obviously, we thought we’d be playing a lot better at this point than we are right now, but we still believe that we have a good baseball club and can do some great things,” first baseman Jeff Bagwell said.

“I know we’re kind of getting behind the 8-ball a little bit, but there’s still a long way to go. A lot of things can happen in the second half. And with the talent we have in this room, we can make things happen.”

Lima (8-3) allowed two runs on five hits and struck out four to improve to 4-1 in his last six starts—all at Dodger Stadium.

“I was pumped up, playing my old teammates, and I was a little excited at the beginning,” Lima said. “When you throw strikes, you make things happen. And that’s what I’m doing. Now that I’ve got it rolling, I want to keep it going.”

Oswalt allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings and struck out eight.

Pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in 94 big league starts, the right-hander threw 35 of his first 40 pitches for strikes—including 20 in a row. Oswalt opened the first inning by striking out Dave Roberts on a 94-mph fastball, but No.2 hitter Cesar Izturis singled, advanced on a groundout and scored on Shawn Green’s single.

“There were lots of bloopers and weird hits,” Oswalt said.

The Dodgers made it 2-0 with an assist from a blinding sun that made every popup to the infield an adventure. Lo Duca and Shawn Green singled with one out before second baseman Kent lost sight of Jayson Werth’s popup at the last instant. The ball landed at Kent’s feet, allowing Lo Duca to score from second.

Adam Everett’s two-run homer off Tom Martin in the ninth closed out thescoring.


Beltran’s homer was his 21st this season, and sixth in 16 games with the Astros. … Izturis, a career .246 hitter entering this season, finished the first half batting .292, 37 points higher than last year at the break. … A year ago, the Dodgers entered the break 7 1/2 games out with a 49-44 record. … Robin Ventura, whose 16 grand slams are more than any active player, came up with the bases loaded for the first time this season and flied to right againstHouston’s Dan Miceli to end the seventh.

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