HOUSTON -- Given how spectacularly Dodgers right-hander Zach Greinke has pitched this season, the Astros realized that maximizing any Greinke mistake would serve their hopes of securing a win quite well.
Greinke erred three times over seven innings and the Astros pounced on every occasion, making the most of their three base hits in a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros (68-56) cashed in all three of their extra-base hits off Greinke (13-3), who suffered his first loss since June 13 at San Diego. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve finished 2-for-3, blasting a triple and a solo home run while scoring twice. First baseman Luis Valbuena also homered as the Astros improved to 12-3 in interleague games.
"We obviously took advantage of the very few mistakes that he made," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Greinke. "Going into this game you know he's a really good pitcher and if you get any mistakes or any opportunities you want to capitalize on them."
Houston continued its torrid play at home, extending its streak to 12 consecutive series either won (10) or split (two). The Dodgers (67-55) will attempt to avert the series sweep with ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw (10-6) on the mound in the finale on Sunday.
Astros left-hander Scott Kazmir (7-8) won for just the second time in six starts with Houston. He retired the first nine batters he faced and was on pace to match the productivity of his first two starts with the Astros, when he worked 14 2/3 scoreless innings. But, after allowing consecutive hits to open the fourth inning, Kazmir began to labor.
Kazmir caught a break when Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins failed in his attempt to stretch his leadoff single into a double, and he worked around a one-out infield single from right fielder Yasiel Puig.
In the fifth, Kazmir was the beneficiary of a replay review that reversed the ruling of a one-out triple for second baseman Chase Utley, with Utley sent back to second when it was revealed that the ball ricocheted off the foul pole.
More trouble followed in the sixth, and this time Kazmir could not avoid surrendering a run when Rollins doubled and third baseman Justin Turner added an RBI single. But Kazmir did preserve his lead with a strikeout of Scott Van Slyke before Utley rolled into a groundout.
"I felt at the time I threw the first (changeup) thinking that he was going to be aggressive and got a swing and miss," Kazmir said of the sequence to Van Slyke. "I threw the second one and got a swing and miss. I tried to expand a little bit, just hoping to get the strike zone."
Kazmir allowed six hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in six innings.
"It feels like we're not swinging the bats great right now," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "The energy is not really what you'd like."
Altuve tripled and later scored in the first inning on a misplayed grounder by Turner. His homer in the sixth, his 10th, capped the scoring.
Valbuena struck with two outs in the second, blasting a 3-2 Greinke fastball 411 feet to the back of the home bullpen in right-center field for his team-leading 22nd homer. Greinke retired 11 consecutive batters before Altuve once again turned the Dodgers' game plan on its ear.
"He doesn't strike out much," Greinke said of Altuve. "I feel like in the past a lot of them have been softer hits like soft ground balls that he beats out. But today he hit all three balls really hard. Bunch of fastballs today and that was my plan coming in. Then starting the third at-bat, try to get them with something else but he didn't swing at it where I wanted him to. Then he hit a fastball. Some good at-bats. Wrong game plan. Good swings."
NOTES: With RHP Lance McCullers rejoining the rotation on Sunday and the Astros scheduled for a day off Thursday, RHP Mike Fiers won't pitch again until Saturday in Minnesota at the earliest. Fiers threw 134 pitches while tossing his first no-hitter on Friday night against the Dodgers. ... Dodgers CF Joc Pederson, with an OPS .183 lower against left-handed pitchers than right-handers, was absent from the lineup against Astros LHP Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers aim to keep INF/OF Enrique Hernandez, who hit .440 (11-for-25) during a six-game hitting streak that ended on Friday night, in the lineup as well as recently acquired 2B Chase Utley. ... The Astros optioned OF Preston Tucker to Triple-A Fresno to make room for RHP Lance McCullers, who will start the series finale against the Dodgers on Sunday. Tucker is batting .152/.188/.304 in August.