Happ strikes out 10, falls in duel with Dodgers

Happ strikes out 10, falls in duel with Dodgers

Happ strikes out 10, falls in duel with Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- One pitch into Sunday's game, the Astros already had a hit, a runner on third base and what seemed like a sign of good things to come.

Then, over the course of the remaining 131 pitches they saw in a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers, the Astros were able to muster just one more hit. Jose Altuve's leadoff triple was as lively as the Houston bats got all afternoon in being held to a season-low two hits.

Dodgers lefty Chris Capuano baffled Houston hitters with his slow breaking ball and changeup, as Los Angeles took the series' rubber match. Houston is still in search of its first series victory on the road this season.

"He's getting a lot of guys to swing at balls that are just off the plate," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "If he happens to get a couple calls just off the plate ... then he can expand the plate, and he's all that much tougher."

Capuano outdueled Astros lefty J.A. Happ, who tied a career high with 10 strikeouts. Happ lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits.

It was his third consecutive quality start, but it clearly wasn't "quality" enough for Happ, who was visibly disappointed at his locker after the game.

"It's a first-place team, man, and I wanted to get this series," Happ said. "I wanted to come up big for us today. It's frustrating. We came up just a little short. That's a heck of a ballclub, and we had a chance to take a series from them."

Matt Treanor gave the Dodgers their first lead in the fourth inning with a home run to left-center field that Happ said came on "a bad pitch, and I paid for it."

But Astros center fielder Justin Maxwell seemingly had a good read on the ball and tried to make a leaping grab at the wall. It deflected off his glove and over the fence by inches. It was unclear whether the ball would have cleared the top of the fence had Maxwell not redirected its path.

"The first few steps, you try to picture where the ball is going and you take off," Maxwell said. "I had a pretty good beat on it and I just missed it."

Treanor was impressed with the effort, adding jokingly that he might have to get Maxwell a box of chocolates if, indeed, he did aid the ball over the wall.

"The kid did a nice job getting back to the wall, and he had the opportunity to make the play," Treanor said. "It's just fortunate for us that it went over."

With the Houston bats in an afternoon-long funk, the Dodgers threatened seemingly every inning. That's where Happ's strikeout prowess came into play as nine of his 10 K's were with men in scoring position.

"Does it matter if I tell you that I felt better than what the results were?" Happ said. "The reality is that we lost the game, a tough game. I felt good out there, I felt like I was in control."

Happ seemed to have the Dodgers left-handed hitting cleanup man, Andre Ethier, off balance all afternoon, and that's why manager Brad Mills stayed with Happ into the seventh inning.

With a man on first base and one out, Ethier bounced a slow grounder to Chris Johnson, but the third baseman misplayed it, and the ball hopped into left field for a two-base error.

That allowed the Dodgers' third run to score later in the frame, when Bobby Abreu drew an RBI walk off lefty Xavier Cedeno, who made his first appearance this season in place of the injured Fernando Abad.

As for Capuano, Maxwell likened him to another NL West lefty.

"He's kind of like Jamie Moyer in a sense, just because he's crafty," said Maxwell, referring to the 49-year-old Rockies starter. "He commands his changeup well and tries to get hitters to chase. That's the guy I'd compare him to, but obviously he throws a little harder."

The Astros' best chance to score again came in the sixth inning after shortstop Jed Lowrie had snapped Houston's streak of 18 consecutive hitless at-bats. With Lowrie on second, Carlos Lee hit a rocket up the middle, but Capuano managed to knock it down with his glove. He picked the ball up and calmly threw it to first to end the threat.

Mills also pointed to a first-inning diving stop by Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon as a play that may have swung the game. The grounder plated Altuve, who scored in the first inning in all three games of the series, but stopped what could have been an early rally.

"Lowrie hits that ball up the middle and Gordon makes a nice play to stop the inning from continuing to move on," Mills said. "That was a huge play of the game right there. We had something going. Capuano was still trying to find himself."

The Astros never did get anything going after that, as they lost their last game at Dodger Stadium as a member of the National League.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.