Amid the giddiness of seven victories in their previous 11 games, the Dodgers offered a harsh reminder to a home crowd of 44,533 Friday night:
They still know how to lose. Do they ever, 4-2, to Houston.
In one day, they lost third baseman Jeff Hamilton indefinitely with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. They lost outfielder Kal Daniels for at least this game's final five innings with a muscle strain on his right side.
They nearly lost third base Joe Amalfitano when he was thrown to the ground by Mickey Hatcher while trying to restrain Hatcher during an argument with home plate umpire Gerry Davis. Pitcher Tim Belcher lost the big battles with Houston Astros hitters, allowing just four hits in seven innings but also four runs.
And the Dodgers lost the game, to snap a three-game winning streak.
In managing just six hits in eight innings against Houston left-hander Jim Deshaies, whom they had hit for three runs in five innings a week ago, the Dodgers failed quickly and methodically. Even a final chance for drama was foiled when pinch-hitter Mike Scioscia flied out to shallow left field against reliever Dave Smith with Mike Sharperson on second base and two out in the ninth inning.
The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on former Dodger Franklin Stubbs' second home run of the season, which followed a walk to Glenn Wilson.
After the Dodgers had inched back with Hubie Brooks' second homer in two games in the fourth inning, Houston scored again in the fifth on a single by Rafael Ramirez, a sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and a fly ball by Eric Yelding.
The Dodgers came back once more in the fifth, led by rookie catcher Carlos Hernandez, who collected his first big-league hit in his first big-league game--a leadoff double. He scored on Alfredo Griffin's single when Yelding threw the ball over catcher Craig Biggio's head for an error.
Griffin moved to third base on Belcher's bunt. But in blowing what was the Dodgers' last good chance before the ninth inning, Juan Samuel struck out and Willie Randolph grounded to second to end the inning. The Astros sealed it in the sixth on Glenn Davis' second homer of the year.
But those are just statistics. The Dodgers lost in other ways, beginning with the first-inning announcement that Hamilton's sore shoulder was diagnosed as a partially torn rotator cuff.
Then, in the second inning, Daniels singled to left field and, on a line drive to shortstop by Sharperson, Daniels was forced to dive back to first to avoid a double play. During the dive he twisted his side and departed the game two innings later. Daniels is batting a team-leading .394.
He was replaced by Mickey Hatcher, who entered the game with no hits in eight at-bats.
"I always have trouble early because I don't play much early," Hatcher said earlier this week. "When we get into the middle of the season, I'll be fine."
If he didn't sound frustrated, that was before his first--and only--plate appearance on Friday. Two innings after replacing Daniels in left field, Hatcher battled Deshaies until checking a swing on a low, two-strike pitch.
Hatcher didn't think he made a full swing, but the Astros appealed to first-base umpire Paul Runge, who called it strike three. Hatcher stared down at first base, said a few things and stomped back to the dugout. Halfway there, he was thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Gerry Davis.
Hatcher returned to the plate to argue with Davis. His motions became as heated as his words, and he was restrained by Sharperson and third-base coach Amalfitano. Hatcher became even angrier with Davis and threw Amalfitano to the ground.
Hatcher eventually returned to the dugout, and Amalfitano returned to the third-base coaching box, apparently unscratched. The Dodgers weren't so lucky.