Lowe Nearly Perfect in Wrigley Field Victory

Derek Lowe had never pitched in Wrigley Field before, but had a hard time believing the stories about balls flying out of the park like popcorn from an open frying pan on the prevailing south wind. So with his sinker working to perfection, he pitched a complete 7-0 victory and missed a no-hitter on a 50-foot ground ball scuffed down the third base line by leadoff man Jerry Harriston that Mike Edwards was unable to handle.

It was the scratchiest of scratch hits but it was the only thing that resembled a hit during the afternoon. The runner was erased on a double play and Lowe walked three, pitching to only 29 men during the afternoon, two over the minimum.

It may be the approach of autumn, the time of the year that Lowe seems to sparkle as demonstrated by his playoff excellence last year for the Red Sox, but he allowed only two earned runs over seven innings in a 2-1 loss to Houston on August 26 in his previous start.

It was his second complete game shutout, having stopped San Diego on three hits April 15. It boosted the team record to four on the season, with Jeff Weaver and Brad Penny crafting one each.

The Dodgers made it easier for him by scoring three in the second and four in the third innings, banging out eight of their 11 hits.

In the only hard hit ball on any consequence, Todd Walker drove a shot to right field in the eighth inning that Jose Cruz handled perfectly, going back to the ivy, then turning and gloving the ball just before it hit the wall.

Of the 27 outs recorded, 11 were on ground balls, nine on balls in the air and seven on strikeouts. He used only 115 pitches in the game.

Los Angeles didn't really bash the ball in the second inning but they did get three runs out of their efforts.

With one out, Jason Phillips walked and Mike Edwards hit a soft looper into right field for a single. Cruz's grounder split the shortstop and third baseman to drive in the first run. Jason Repko duplicated Edwards Texas Leaguer into right and on an 0-2 pitch, Jayson Werth's eight iron dropped in front of the center fielder to score two more. Oscar Robles hit the hardest shot of the inning when he lined to the first baseman.

They hit the ball much harder in the fourth. Jeff Kent beat out an infield hit to the third baseman and Olmedo Saenz powered a drive (#13) into a stiff wind that dropped into the left field seats. Edwards walked and Cruz slashed a shot down the right field line past the Cub first baseman for a triple and two more RBI.

Cruz, who had a double in the fifth, came up again in the eighth just a home run shy of a cycle but walked. He finished the game 3-for-3 with three runs batted in.

The Dodger attack was pretty much fueled by the bottom half of the order. The 1-2-3 hitters, Werth, Robles and Kent, were 2-for-12 on the afternoon.

The Cubs first baseman, Derrek Lee, the N.L. leadgue-leading hitter and a triple crown candidate, was 1-for-10 in the series.

Dodger Blue Notes--Pending the outcome of the Padre-Diamondback game, the Dodgers trailed by 5 1/2 games. Kansas City was the first time to be eliminated from the A.L. wild card race, leaving the Dodgers to think about the ugly, three-game sweep by the Royals in Kansas City before the All-Star break. …Brad Penny accepted his five-game suspension after a phone call from the Players Association. He will miss his scheduled start Sunday in Colorado, with Edwin Jackson picking up the assignment. …Giovanni Carrara returned to Los Angeles after learning that his 2-year-old son had to be hospitalized after experiencing convulsions. …Paul Bako's home west of New Orleans had minimum damage from Hurricane Katrina but scout Dennis Moeller's home at Slidell, Louisiana was destroyed. …Rosters may expand to 40 Thursday but the Dodgers will not reveale just who will get the call. …Several of the system's top prospects will represent the Dodgers on the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League, which will be managed by Class A Vero Beach skipper Scott Little. Players selected were pitchers Edwin Jackson, Chad Billingsley and Greg Miller; infielders Tony Abreu and Andy LaRoche and outfielder Matt Kemp. First baseman James Loney is on the taxi squad and will be eligible to play two days a week. …The Dodgers are off Thursday and Jeff Weaver opens a three-game series against the Rockies in Denver on Friday night.