Carlos Lee’s solo shot gives Astros 2-1 win over Los Angeles and series win over Dodgers

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HOUSTON (AP)—With the game tied in the seventh inning, Carlos Lee wasn’t expecting a pitch he could hit out of the ballpark.

But he wasn’t caught off guard when it came.

Lee hit a go-ahead solo home run in the seventh to lift the Houston Astros to a 2-1 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night.

“This series was very tough,” Lee said. “Like I was talking today to the coaches, (saying) they hadn’t given me anything to hit. … I wasn’t expecting nothing like around the plate.

“He just threw the ball up in the middle of the plate and I was lucky to make contact.”

The shot by Lee, nicknamed “El Caballo” or “The Horse,” bounced off the wall in left center field, just feet away from where the fans who call themselves “Los Caballitos” stand.

The rowdy fans, who carry a banner proclaiming the group name and wave around stick horses, jumped and cheered wildy as the ball hit just to the right of where they stand.

The win gives the struggling Astros their second straight series victory.

Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in eight chances. Lidge has recorded saves in five straight appearances.

“I’ve been fortunate to get some opportunities there,” he said. “I’m certainly happy to get out there and put any questions to rest because I feel great right now—maybe as good as I ever have in my career.”

Eric Munson put Houston ahead with a home run in the third inning.

Former Astro Jeff Kent tied the game at 1-all with a solo shot to the Crawford Boxes in left field in the seventh inning. Kent, who also homered on Tuesday night, was greeted with loud boos as he rounded the bases.

His team-leading 15th homer of the year marks the season-high eighth straight game in which the Dodgers have had at least one home run, breaking the streak of seven in a row from May 25-June 1.

With the home run, Kent has reached safely in 36 straight games, the longest streak in the majors this season.

Chad Qualls (6-3) allowed two hits and one run in one inning for the win.

Houston starter Matt Albers, filling in for injured ace Roy Oswalt, allowed three hits and no runs with five strikeouts in five innings. It was his first start since May 23 after appearing in eight games as reliever since he was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock on June 28.

“Albers did a nice job,” said Astros manager Phil Garner. “He pitched out of a couple of jams. I thought he did a real nice job with the left-handers. That’s been where he’s needed to work a little bit.”

D.J. Houlton (0-2) pitched two innings and the only hit he allowed was Lee’s home run. Dodgers starter Derek Lowe faced one batter in the fifth before leaving the game with a groin pull. He was visibly upset as he stalked off the field and he threw his glove the length of the dugout after he got there.

He said he would have an MRI exam Thursday to determine the severity of his injury. Lowe said he first noticed the problem two or three days ago while warming up in the bullpen, but thought he’d be OK to start on Wednesday. Instead it got worse as he played.

“I’ve never been through anything like this before,” he said. “It’s just like a sharp pain, and then it goes away. Nothing I do, activity-wise, hurts it except throwing.”

Lowe, who allowed nine runs and 10 hits in just three innings in his last start, was solid. He allowed one run and three hits with three strikeouts in four innings.

“When he went out to pitch in the fifth, we just didn’t want to take any chances at that point,” manager Grady Little said. “Losing (Lowe) would be a big blow. We just hope it’s not anything serious.”

Lee singled with two outs in the fourth before stealing second. A single by Mike Lamb sent Lee to third, but Lowe got out of trouble when Luke Scott grounded out to first base to end the inning.

In the fifth, center fielder Jason Lane, who was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock on Monday, made an athletic catch at the center field wall on a long fly by Matt Kemp. Luke Scott outdid him on the next at-bat when his throw from right field to Lance Berkman put out Lowe at first base.

Notes

A day after saying he would retire at the end of the season, Craig Biggio became the 21st player to appear 2,800 games in his career. … The Astros are 3-0 this season with Lane at center field.

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