LOS ANGELES -- Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell didn't make a single Dodgers hitter swing and miss in a 3-1 Houston victory on Friday night.
Apparently that isn't a requirement to throwing 7 1/3 dominant innings and out-dueling a reigning Cy Young winner, anyway.
Harrell was brilliant pitching to contact in allowing just five hits and one run, as the Astros hung on to win the opener of a three-game set, the fourth victory in a row. Harrell threw 94 pitches, 62 of them strikes, but not one was a swing and a miss.
"When I get a lot of contact is when I go deeper into the game," said Harrell, who worked into the eighth for the first time in his career. "Today I made it into the eighth inning, and when I get contact that's really good for me. Strikeouts are nice, but I hope that I don't get a lot."
He was removed with a man on in the eighth, and the Astros 'pen ran into some trouble. Wesley Wright and Wilton Lopez didn't record an out, and soon the tying run was in scoring position and the winning run was on first for the Dodgers.
That's when Fernando Abad came on to record a strikeout -- Houston's first of the game, and Fernando Rodriguez got A.J. Ellis to fly out to center field. Brett Myers worked a scoreless ninth for his 12th save.
"All those guys they work together," manager Brad Mills said of his bullpen. "They're pulling for one another down there, and all of them have done an absolutely outstanding job this year for us. You call it a hiccup, but every now and then something like that might happen, but they pick one another up."
Of the 22 outs Harrell recorded, 17 were ground balls and not one was a strikeout. It was good enough to out-pitch Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who allowed three runs (two earned) in seven innings.
Harrell noted that a victory over Kershaw and the Dodgers, who sport baseball's best record even after the loss, took on a little extra significance.
"It's a big win for this team," Harrell said. "We've battled and we've played good and we have a little streak here going. I've just been trying to follow suit."
That streak is now at four and after three home victories against the reeling Cubs, Friday's was the most impressive. The Astros have struggled on the road this season and the Dodgers have been downright dominant at Dodger Stadium -- the toughest place for an opponent to win this year.
The victory moved the Astros to just one game below .500 for the first time since April 15. They sit in third place in the NL Central, three games behind the first-place Reds.
"We're beginning to show a lot of teams that we're not a pushover," left fielder J.D. Martinez said. "It's not, 'Oh, we're playing the Astros.' No. You better come with your game and you better take it seriously."
Martinez's two-run homer in the third inning off Kershaw, put the Astros ahead by three. It was part of a rally that also saw shortstop Jed Lowrie hit a double off the top of the wall.
"He hit a good pitch, actually," Kershaw said of the 2-1 fastball he threw to Martinez. "I shouldn't be behind in the count there, and I threw one too many of the same pitch. I did a good job, he hit it out and it cost us the game."
The Dodgers put two men on in each of the first two innings, but Harrell didn't allow much after that, seemingly getting stronger as the game went on.
He was removed after just 94 pitches, with his shutout still intact, but he said he was fine with Mills' decision and didn't second-guess it as he watched the bullpen bend but not break.
"Our bullpen has been so good and it's pitched so well that when they go out there, I have full confidence in all of them," Harrell said. "It was one of those things where we worked into a jam and got out of it."
The Astros got on the board in the first inning when Dodgers second baseman Elian Herrera threw wildly to first base, attempting to complete a double play. Jose Altuve, who led off the game with a double, came around to score the first run.
The Astros could have expanded the lead, but managed just one hit in 13 at-bats with men in scoring position. Because of those struggles and a couple of Astros baserunning blunders, the Dodgers were able to keep it close late in the game.
Justin Maxwell missed a sign on a squeeze play in the top of the eighth inning, leaving Martinez hanging out to dry down the third-base line.
At the time, it could have become a costly mistake, but the Astros bullpen made sure it was rendered moot.
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.