Dodgers 10, Astros 2

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HOUSTON (AP)—Chad Billingsley hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about pitching in the ninth inning. After all, he’d never lasted past seven innings in any of his first 22 career starts. That all changed Monday night.

The right-hander threw a five-hitter for his first complete game, Jeff Kent had four hits and a pair of RBIs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Houston Astros 10-2.

“You never know about that when you come out in the first inning,” Billingsley said of going the distance. “You don’t try to get too far ahead of yourself or try to do too much. You just go one out at a time.

“I knew I had a chance in the seventh inning. I told myself to just keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Luis Gonzalez and James Loney had three RBIs each for the NL West-leading Dodgers, who came in having lost three of four.

Manager Grady Little was thrilled with his young pitcher.

“That was a pretty good example of what he’s capable of,” he said. “That was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen and one of the first times I’ve ever been the happiest guy in the world to see a guy go 0-for-5.

“It came at a good time for us. It was what we needed to get back on track.”

Billingsley took a shutout into the ninth and had two outs when Luke Scott hit a two-run homer.

“I had pretty good command of my fastball,” Billingsley said. “It was disappointing not getting the shutout but it was sill a complete game. I just wanted to go deep into the game and give our bullpen a little bit of rest.”

Billingsley (7-0) allowed five hits with three walks and six strikeouts. He became the first Dodger to start the season 7-0 since Matt Herges started the 2000 season 8-0. Billingsley is 3-0 in seven starts since joining the rotation June 21. He was 4-0 in 23 relief appearances.

Loney, who played at nearby Elkins High, was returning to Minute Maid Park for the first time since he played a high school regional in 2002. He said he had “about 40” friends and family at the game.

“It felt great to hit the home run,” Loney said. “Getting an opportunity to play here was a great experience.”

Chris Sampson (7-7) went five innings and allowed four runs and eight hits. He lost for the second time in his last seven starts.

“There is not much to feel good about tonight,” Sampson said. “When you give up four runs in five innings, you can’t exactly call that good pitching. I kept leaving my sinker up a little bit and I wasn’t able to locate other pitches to get ahead of hitters.”

The Astros bullpen, which had allowed just one run in 21 2-3 innings over the last eight games, got hit hard. Dave Borkowski relieved Sampson and allowed three runs and five hits in two innings, and Brian Moehler gave up four hits in the ninth, including a three-run homer by Loney.

“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 game might have helped us a little bit, but we just didn’t muster any offense tonight.

The Dodgers got on the board in the first when Kent singled in Rafael Furcal for a 1-0 lead. Kent then doubled in the fourth inning, went to third on a groundout and scored on Sampson’s wild pitch to make it 2-0.

Gonzalez’s bases-loaded single to right drove in Furcal and Juan Pierre for a 4-0 lead in the fifth.

Kent’s double in the seventh drove in Russell Martin. Gonzalez then drove Kent in with a double and Nomar Garciaparra singled in Gonzalez for a 7-0 lead.

It was Kent’s first four-hit game since Sept. 18 against the Padres. He reached base for the 34th straight game, the longest streak in the majors this year.

Notes

Loney was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning to stretch his streak of reaching base to 28 straight games dating back to June 22. … The Dodgers’ 27-20 record on the road is the best in the NL. … Lance Berkman went 0-for-4 in his first start after missing three games with a sore hand. Berkman played with a pad taped to the top of his hand.

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