HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Kyle Weiland put his hands on the back of his head as he bent over in disgust and frustration. Weiland looked up in time and saw exactly what he expected to see, a Matt Kemp homer flying over the left-center-field wall.
Weiland had struck out the red-hot Kemp in his previous two at-bats Saturday night and was trying to be extra careful with the Dodgers' slugger in the sixth inning of a one-run game. With first base open, Weiland wanted to get Kemp to chase a pitch out of the zone and was willing to give him a free pass if he didn't.
Instead, Weiland threw a slider that hung over the plate about belt-high, and Kemp unloaded. His Major League-leading ninth homer, combined with seven scoreless innings from Clayton Kershaw allowed the Dodgers to cruise past the Astros, 5-1, at Minute Maid Park.
"I was trying to throw the ball off the plate," Weiland said. "If anything, I could get him to chase on anything and get himself out; that was the best-case scenario. If not, we're going to pitch to the guy behind him because he's so hot right now. It didn't play out that way and it cost me."
The homer by Kemp, which gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead in the sixth, and a solo homer by James Loney in the second inning were the only blemishes on an otherwise solid effort from Weiland (0-3). He pitched a career-high seven innings and gave up six hits and struck out six.
"I felt a lot more comfortable out there today," he said. "I was throwing all my pitches for strikes, which is something I hadn't been doing my last few starts. That made it a lot easier for me to get ahead of guys. It comes down to one or two pitches."
Kemp's nine home runs in the first 15 games is a Dodgers record. He extended his hitting streak to 10 games, during which he's hitting .556 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs.
"Kemp's not missing much when you get it over the plate," Houston manager Brad Mills said.
Kershaw picked up his first win of the season by holding the Astros to two walks and three hits while striking out nine batters. He's won nine consecutive decisions dating to last Aug. 13.
"He's a great pitcher," Houston first baseman Carlos Lee said. "He was mixing his pitches pretty good and keeping everybody off balance. He was throwing everything in any count. When a guy is pitching like that, it's tough."
The Astros were trailing, 5-0, in the eighth when they mounted a threat against reliever Mike MacDougal. A single by Justin Maxwell and walks to Jordan Schafer and Jose Altuve loaded the bases with one out, bringing J.D. Martinez to the plate.
Martinez scored a run by drawing a bases-loaded walk against Kenley Jansen, with Lee coming to the plate representing the tying run. Lee fouled off four consecutive pitches, ranging from 92-95 mph, and took a ball on a close pitch before popping out. Jed Lowrie lined out to center two pitches later to end the threat.
"That guy made great pitches," Lee said. "He didn't miss one pitch. Everything was on the inside corner hard, and when I got to two strikes, I was trying to put the ball in play straight through the middle and he made a good pitch. He didn't give me anything to hit, basically."
If there was a positive the Astros could take from the loss it was the performance of Weiland. Sure, the homers to Loney and especially Kemp were costly, but he pitched with more poise and confidence than he did in his first two starts and has the Astros feeling pretty good about the fifth spot in the rotation.
"He's been improving each time out," Mills said. "You see how he made it through the 100-pitch barrier and got to the seventh, and for a No. 5 starter to progress like that is pretty nice."
Even Dodgers manager Don Mattingly walked away impressed.
"The guy's a little different," he said. "He threw the ball good. He's got a different breaking ball. It looks like it's sharp. We hadn't seen him. If we get a chance to see him again, I'd be interested to see how he looks. He was getting lefties out better than righties. His breaking ball was short, quick and just different. Guys weren't seeing him. We didn't have that many good at-bats off of him."