LOS ANGELES (AP) A.J. Ellis hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
The Dodgers’ 11th victory in 15 games improved the best record in the majors to 31-15 and extended their NL West lead over San Francisco to a season-high 7 1-2 games – the largest margin in any division.
Wesley Wright (0-1) opened the ninth by hitting Andre Ethierwith an 0-2 pitch. Scott Van Slyke batted for reliever Kenley Jansen (4-0) and advanced Ethier with a sacrifice bunt.Wilton Lopez intentionally walked James Loney, and Ellis drove a 1-1 pitch into the left-field pavilion for his fifth homer.
Jansen pitched 1 1-3 innings for the victory. The right-hander came in with two-out in the eighth, trying to protect a 3-2 lead for Chad Billingsley after Ronald Belisario issued a pair of two-out walks.
Brian Bogusevic scored the tying run when Jason Castroslapped a ground single off the glove of third basemanJerry Hairston Jr. and into foul territory, but Jansen retiredJordan Schafer on a flyball with the bases loaded.
Billingsley allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, striking out eight and walking three. He is 0-3 with a 5.01 ERA in eight starts since beating San Diego and Pittsburgh in his first two outings this season.
Houston’s Bud Norris threw 116 pitches over 4 2-3 innings, allowing three runs, eight hits and four walks. The right-hander’s early departure snapped a string of 38 consecutive games by the Astros in which their starters lasted at least five innings. Norris ended May 4-0 in five starts with a 1.17 ERA.
Billingsley threw 73 of his 99 pitches during the first three innings and retired only eight of his first 16 batters, but all the Astros could scrape across was two runs. The right-hander had three strikeouts in the first, but in between them were Jose Altuve‘s double and Carlos Lee‘s run-scoring single.
A bases-loaded walk to Schafer forced in another run in the second. But Billingsley came back to strike out Altuve. Ethier, the Dodgers’ Gold Glove right fielder, helped minimize the damage with an inning-ending diving catch of J.D. Martinez‘s sinking line drive. Houston stranded two more in the third when Castro took a called third strike.
The missed opportunities eventually came back to haunt the Astros, who squandered a chance to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 14, when they were 4-4. They are a major league-worst 0-6 in extra-inning games, and have lost 14 of their last 16 since Aug. 11, 2011.
Ethier got the Dodgers on the board in the third with a two-out run-scoring double that raised his NL-leading RBIs total to 41.
One inning later, left fielder Martinez robbed Ellis of a potential RBI double with a running catch in the alley before slamming into the fence. Dee Gordon followed with a double that sent Loney to third, and Tony Gwynn Jr.put Los Angeles ahead 3-2 with a two-run, two-out single through the right side.
Ethier had a chance to break open the game later that inning, but lined out to center with the bases loaded.
NOTES: Los Angeles Kings centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter attended the game in front-row seats adjacent to the owners’ box while awaiting Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals next Wednesday at New Jersey. … The previous time an Astros starter didn’t go at least five innings was April 13, when Lucas Harrell was removed after four in a no-decision at Miami. … Loney had three hits – two of them against Norris, making Loney 7 for 14 career against him