A Marwin Gonzalez solo homer was all the scoring Saturday's fans had to witness through the first five innings. Houston fans had to be worried as they saw starting pitcher Lance McCullers leave in the fifth after calling out the trainers. His right elbow was in pain and the Astros called on Brad Peacock to finish the fifth.
McCullers exits with trainer
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The offense came to their rescue with four runs in the sixth, seven more in the eighth and a crowning two-run homer in the ninth to rack up a 14-0 whitewash of the Dodgers before 53,119 mostly disgruntled Angelenos still waiting for their revenge on last year's World Champs.
The win kept Houston five games ahead of Oakland in the A.L. West race and now 7-1/2 ahead of fading Seattle. The Astros stand at 30 games above .500 (71-41) for the first time this year while winning their fourth straight.
The downside, of course, is the loss of McCullers who was flown back to Houston for examination and seems likely to miss a turn in the rotation. The Astros are the only team that has not had to replace a starting pitcher all season.
McCullers has thrown a career-high 126 innings this year after making two trips to the disabled list last season with a sore back. If the bullpen has to fill in the gap by putting either Peacock or Collin McHugh into the rotation, the timing couldn't be better as they will be activating Roberto Osuna in the next few days after acquiring him before the trade deadline from Toronto. The Astros had already placed reliever Chris Devenski on the disabled list Friday, calling up Cuban lefty reliever Cionel Perez.
After Peacock tossed two scoreless frames Saturday, McHugh, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Perez closed out the three-hitter.
Meanwhile, the batters kept the relievers as stress-free as possible. Yuli Gurriel's two-run double off losing pitcher Kenta Maeda in the sixth opened the flood gates to a 5-0 lead.
In the eighth, they clubbed ex-Brewer John Axford for six runs in just 1/3rd of an inning. The key blows were a two-run double by Martin Maldonado and a three-run homer by Josh Reddick. The final blow was struck off reliever Zac Rosscup who also allowed a two-run blast by Jake Marisnick in the ninth.
Reddick and Gurriel led the way with three hits each while Reddick and Maldonado delivered three RBIs and Gonzalez scored three times.
The loss was the worst shutout defeat by the Dodgers since 1923 when they were known as the Brooklyn Robins. Of more concern for the current Dodgers is that the blowout knocked them a game behind Arizona in the N.L. West race.
The Astros try for the unlikely sweep Sunday afternoon at Chavez Ravine with Gerrit Cole (10-3) taking the mound against Walker Buehler (4-4) in a 3:10 pm Central start. Cole is 3-1 lifetime against the Dodgers in six starts but carries a 5.55 ERA against them. Houston has now dropped L.A. in the last five straight regular-season meetings.
- Bob Hulsey