LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jason LaRue drove in five runs with a pair of homers and Brandon Claussen pitched seven sharp innings Thursday, helping the Cincinnati Reds beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 to split their four-game series.

Claussen (5-8) won for the first time since June 21, allowing a run and four hits while striking out five. The left-hander, 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA over his previous five starts, retired 14 consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff homer in the first inning to Cesar Izturis and single by Milton Bradley one out later.

It was the first time in Claussen’s 17 starts that he did not walk a batter.

Dodgers rookie D.J. Houlton, who was matched up against Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Mark Buehrle and Brad Radke in his previous four starts, thought he had drawn an easier assignment this time with Claussen – who yielded 16 runs and eight homers over his previous two outings and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in either one.

Houlton (4-4) failed to seize the opportunity and gave up four runs and four hits in six innings.

The Reds took a 4-1 lead in the second on a leadoff bloop single by Sean Casey, a walk to Rich Aurilia and a one-out homer to left-center by LaRue. Houlton faced 16 more batters after that and allowed just one more hit.

LaRue, who was plunked his next time up, hit a two-run shot in the ninth against Elmer Dessens, completing his first multihomer game of the season. LaRue is hitting .328 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 40 games since May 14 – after going homerless in his first 28 games this season and batting .172.

The Dodgers got the potential tying run to the plate in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Oscar Robles, in a 0-for-25 slump, batted for Houlton and was hit by a pitch. Izturis grounded into a forceout and was held up at third on a two-out double to right-center by Antonio Perez. Both runners were stranded when Bradley grounded to third.

Bradley came up again representing the tying run in the eighth, but flied out to the warning track in right. Bradley, who missed 47 games because of a torn ligament in his right ring finger, is 4-for-17 with two RBIs since coming off the disabled list last Saturday.

Less than 14 hours after he stole a franchise-record five bases and scored the winning run in Wednesday night’s 7-6 victory, Cincinnati’s Ryan Freel drove Houlton’s first pitch of the game into the right-field corner for a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ken Griffey Jr.

Izturis responded in the bottom half with a drive into the lower seats in the left-field corner. It was the second homer this year by the first-time All-Star, whose other one came on the second pitch of the Dodgers’ season opener on April 5 at San Francisco.

Notes: Jacob Cruz, on deck to pinch hit for Kent Mercker in the ninth, was struck hard by LaRue’s foul ball just before the second home run. One of Cruz’s teammates playfully threw a catcher’s chest protector out to him. … Dodgers C Jason Phillips, who struggled against Freel’s aggressive baserunning the night before, started at 1B for the third time this season. … Reds 1B Sean Casey played his 69th consecutive errorless game, two more than his previous best streak, and has only one error all season. No Reds 1B has ever won a Gold Glove. … Thursday marked 14 years since the Dodgers were on the losing end of a perfect game by Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos. The only other complete-game no-hitter by a visiting player in Dodger Stadium history was by Mercker in 1994, when he pitched for Atlanta. … Aurilia started at 3B for the third time this season. He made his first 25 starts at 2B before going on the DL May 11, then was shifted to second base after Felipe Lopez became an integral part of the lineup.

AP-ES-07-28-05 1745EDT

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