HOUSTON (AP) - It was the kind of day Bill Hall would rather not experience again.
Hall's third-inning error loaded the bases and set up a grand slam by Jerry Sands that led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
Hall almost atoned for his miscue with one out in the ninth when he hit a towering shot to deep left field that would have tied the game had it stayed fair.
Instead, it took a tantalizing curve just foul that ended a game of coming close for the home team.
``As soon as I hit it, I knew it was a home run swing,' Hall said. ``You know by the contact. Once I looked up and saw where it was going, it started to hook a little bit and I said 'Please don't go foul.' I tried to coach it fair but it was a good swing.'
Hall then struck out and pinch-hitter Angel Sanchez flied out to end the game.
Astros starter J.A. Happ (3-6) had two outs and two on in the third when Matt Kemp hit a bouncer to Hall at second base. Hall misjudged the second bounce and the ball dribbled away and all runners were safe.
``That was real tough,' Hall said. ``On the second hop it kind of took off and if I'd tried to step back and catch it from the side and missed it they score a run. I did my best to keep it in front of me.'
That set the stage for Sands to hit the first grand slam of his career and give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead.
Happ didn't blame the error.
``I wasn't even thinking of that, I was trying to get ahead of the next guy,' Happ said. ``That's just part of the game. He makes that play 99 out of 100 times. Good pitchers have to bear down there and get the team out of the inning. They just got a good hit tonight.'
Jay Gibbons extended his hitting streak to five games with a solo homer off Happ with two outs in the second.
Astros manager Brad Mills sympathized with his second baseman.
``That was a tough play,' Mills said. ``It was in between hops and he stayed in front of it and we were hoping that he could still get the out at second or at first but the ball kind of trickled away from him a bit. That ball was hit pretty well and it kind of kicked away.'
It was that kind of night for the Astros.
They loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning off Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (3-4), who escaped with only one run.
Hunter Pence doubled and Carlos Lee and Brett Wallace walked before Chris Johnson's sacrifice fly. Then Hall struck out and Humberto Quintero fouled out to stop the rally.
The Astros got three runs off Billingsley in the third.
Michael Bourn walked and Clint Barmes singled with two out. Pence followed with an RBI single and Lee drove a 94 mph fast ball up the middle on a full count cutting the lead to 5-3.
After Sands' homer, Happ retired the next seven batters and left after five innings. He allowed five runs, one earned, walked two and struck out four.
``I felt good and I've felt good for a while now,' Happ said. ``Sooner or later it's going to happen. I'll continue to work hard. I'm not going to change much. I'm just looking forward to my next start.'
Happ was pulled after five innings and 93 pitches.
``It was more a matter of leading off the inning,' Happ said. ``Maybe if I'd been hitting second and someone got on, they'd let me bunt him over but we had to get some runs when you're behind like that.'
Matt Downs pinch-hit for Happ in the fifth and grounded out; another plan gone awry for the Astros.
``We should feel confident about this ball game even though we didn't win it,' Hall said. ``Things are happening late in ball games and starting to come together for us.'
NOTES: Dodgers OF Andre Ethier was out of the lineup for the second straight game after being taken out of Sunday's game after running into the outfield wall. Manager Don Mattingly said he's OK, but there were a couple of reasons why he decided to give him another day off. ``With the lefty tonight, it would probably be an easy chance to give him another day,' Mattingly said. ``I need him to be able to go 100 percent. Last year he got banged up and he was hobbling around the whole time out there the whole second half of the year. I just don't want to see that.' ... Houston OF/IF Jason Bourgeois, on the DL with an oblique strain, felt good Tuesday, a day after taking swings for the first time since his injury. He hopes to take batting practice by the end of the week.
The Associated Press News Service
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