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Joc's rare homer feat not enough for Dodgers

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Nine months later, the Dodgers are still coming up short against the Astros.

In the rematch of last year's World Series thriller, their Interleague series opened Friday night with a 2-1 Houston victory, Astros starter Justin Verlander tying a career high with 14 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings while outdueling the Dodgers' Alex Wood.

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LOS ANGELES -- Nine months later, the Dodgers are still coming up short against the Astros.

In the rematch of last year's World Series thriller, their Interleague series opened Friday night with a 2-1 Houston victory, Astros starter Justin Verlander tying a career high with 14 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings while outdueling the Dodgers' Alex Wood.

View Full Game Coverage

The game started for the Dodgers exactly as Thursday night's 21-5 blowout of Milwaukee, Joc Pederson repeating a first-inning leadoff homer. According to STATS, the only other Dodgers player to homer leading off back-to-back games was Carl Furillo in 1951.

But similarities to Thursday night for the Dodgers ended there, six homers and 20 runs shy of Thursday night's epic onslaught. Verlander (11-6) allowed only three singles and a walk after Pederson's homer. The Dodgers struck out 16 times, four by Yasmani Grandal and three by Max Muncy.

"We're going to see this Sunday [against Astros starter Gerrit Cole] and again tomorrow [against Lance McCullers Jr.]," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the defending World Series champions' probable starters. "Guys with plus stuff, it's hard to run a count. They throw strikes. Seems if you're passive, you're going to be 0-1. You have to be aggressive."

Video: HOU@LAD: Verlander K's 14, including 200th of 2018

Wood had to work harder than Verlander - walking three with two hit batters -- but in six innings he allowed only one earned (and one unearned) run on four hits. Wood (7-6) had won his previous six decisions.

"I thought the first two innings, erratic fastball command, the ball was up," Roberts said of Wood. "The last four were very good."

Which made the circumstances of Wood's departure peculiar at best. Although he had already thrown a season-high 105 pitches, Wood was sent out to the mound for the seventh inning. But almost immediately, Roberts and an athletic trainer made a beeline to the mound and Wood was replaced by Dylan Floro, who had been warming up the previous inning.

Video: HOU@LAD: Wood leaves in the 7th with apparent injury

After the game, Roberts said Wood had encountered a recurrence of hamstring tightness that had bothered him before the All-Star break. Roberts said he only wanted Wood to face Verlander leading off the inning anyway, but instead removed him as a precautionary measure.

"Just knowing the history of his right hamstring and the cramping, just trying to get ahead of it,' said Roberts. "Didn't want to put him at any more risk, didn't want to do it."

Video: HOU@LAD: Roberts on Wood, loss to Astros

Wood, who had won his previous six decisions, is the only Dodgers starter of seven that has not been on the disabled list this year, so he could be next up for a 10-day vacation. Ross Stripling is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday, when Wood's rotation spot comes around again.

"It's all right," said Wood. "In the fifth inning, when I went out it caught a little again like I dealt with throughout the year, and it did the same thing when I came out for the seventh."

Wood let the Pederson lead get away in the top of the second with a pair of walks and a two-out RBI double by George Springer that scored an unearned second run when center fielder Cody Bellinger tried sliding to cut the ball off in the gap and kicked it instead for an error.

"We got a lead with Joc, gave it back, and against Verlander it's going to be tough to put some things together," said Roberts. "Cody did a great job getting to the baseball and sliding, then mishandled it."

Video: HOU@LAD: Springer plates two with a double to center

Roberts said a one-out walk to Martin Maldonado (batting .217) was more damaging than the double that followed three batters later because it set up the inning and allowed Springer, the World Series MVP, to bat.

"That walk came back and got us," Roberts said.

Wood didn't argue that his command was amiss, citing two hit batters after hitting only three others all season.

"I've been working on getting my hand up and it's helped the quality of my stuff, but it's hurt my command a little bit," said Wood. "I feel really good about the quality of my stuff. I've just been a little erratic in my timing, but I feel really good about the direction I'm heading."

Video: HOU@LAD: Wood gives up 1 earned over 6 solid frames

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Pederson's home run leading off the bottom of the first inning tied for the highest launch angle (45 degrees) on any Dodgers home run since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. Justin Turner also hit one at 45 degrees in 2016. It was Pederson's eighth leadoff home run and fifth this year. He has four homers in his last 14 games.

SOUND SMART
Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado went 0-for-4, snapping a career-high on-base streak at 33 games.

HE SAID IT
"They can pitch, we can pitch. The margin is small for both clubs." -- Roberts

UP NEXT
Kenta Maeda starts for the Dodgers on Saturday against the Astros and Lance McCullers Jr. in a 6:10 p.m. PT game. Maeda has never faced Houston in the regular season and made four relief appearances in the World Series, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings. Brian Dozier is likely to return to the lineup after not starting Friday night.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Joc Pederson, Alex Wood