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Bullpen falters again as Dodgers' losing streak reaches five games

Bullpen falters again as Dodgers' losing streak reaches five games
Dodgers second basemanChase Utley evades the tag of Astros catcher Jason Castro to score a run in the first inning Sunday afternoon in Houston. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

Everything is a struggle for the Dodgers right now. Even when they get another outstanding effort from Clayton Kershaw and an assist in the scoring department from the opposing pitcher.

That's how a team rolls up a season-high, five-game losing streak. How it's left with heads bowed and plenty of questions for a first-place team.

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The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead into the bottom off the ninth and still could not get it done Sunday, Kenley Jansen blowing a save for only the second time this season.

Into the 10th it went, when Chris Hatcher gave up a walk-off solo homer to Jason Castro to complete Houston's 3-2 comeback win at Minute Maid Park.

On the day, the Dodgers went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Both of their runs were aided by Houston right-hander Lance McCullers, who threw three wild pitches.

Initially it seemed enough for Kershaw, though ultimately the Dodgers would waste another strong outing by the left-hander. He held the Astros to one run on seven hits in his eight innings. He struck out 10 and did not walk a batter, the fifth time this season he's managed that feat.

But with Kershaw having thrown 111 pitches, the Dodgers turned the game over to Jansen in the ninth. He had not pitched in a week.

Jansen gave up a lead-off single to Carlos Correa. He struck out Luis Valbuena, but Correa then stole second base. After Jansen got Evan Gattis to pop up, Marwin Gonzalez singled and the Astros had tied the score, 2-2.

Hatcher, who had been throwing well since coming off the disabled list last week, took over in the 10th. With one out, Castro drove his 11th home run over the left-field wall. The Dodgers challenged the homer, hoping a fan reaching over had interfered with the ball but home run was upheld upon review.

The Astros, who lead the majors in homers, had swept the three-game series.

Chase Utley gave Kershaw the early lead when he doubled with one out in the first inning. He took third on a McCullers' first wild pitch, which proved significant when he scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Turner.

The score remained 1-0 until the fifth inning, when A.J. Ellis hit his own one-out double. One out later, with Jimmy Rollins at the plate, McCullers threw a wild pitch to advance Ellis to third and another that allowed him to score.

Houston got one run back in the sixth when Jose Altuve – who had three of the Astros' seven hits off Kershaw – doubled with one out. Carlos Gomez singled to left to move him to third, and he scored on base hit by Correa.

Gomez tagged and took third on Jed Lowrie's fly to right, and then came up with the most curious play of the day. Probably knowing how difficult it is to score off Kershaw, Gomez tried to steal home on a pitch to Gattis.

Not the best idea against a left-handed pitcher, but Gomez made it very close. He slid head-first and nearly got a hand on the plate before being tagged out by Ellis. The Astros challenged the call, but it was upheld.

Gomez also accidentally kicked Ellis in the side of the head on his slide. He remained down for a while but remained in the game.

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In the seventh, Gattis led off Houston's half of the inning with a double. Kershaw then struck out the side.

The Dodgers seemed on their way to snapping their losing streak, but more struggle lay ahead.

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