Dodgers Not Swept; They Were Vacuumed

Once upon a time, a team holding the Chicago Cubs to eight runs over three games could be almost certain to leave with at least a pair of wins. Not any more. Blake DeWitt wrangled a base on balls with the bases loaded in the fourth to force in the only Dodger run, the Cubs tied in the ninth and won 2-1 in the 10th sucking whatever confidence the Dodgers had in them right out of the dugout.

"We had it where we wanted it," said a tired-looking Joe Torre, who just watched his young club score one run for the third straight game and lose their fifth of the last six.

Derek Lowe was pitching a vintage Derek Lowe game; handling the opponents with ease but receiving little, if any, run support. And after nursing the pitifully small lead the offense had provided him through seven innings, and after only 91 pitches, he was removed.

Although Lowe faced the minimum hitters over his last 3.2 innings and he wasn't allowed to close out what looked like his first win in five weeks. "I never even got to that point of asking to stay in," said Lowe. "I got a handshake, and that's it. I didn't have a lot of say about it."

Broxton, who let a similar 1-0 lead get away the night before, overpowered the Cubs, striking out the side in the eighth, then turned it over to Takashi Saito to close it out.

By now you realize he didn't.

Beset by unusual wildness, Saito walked two of the first three batters he faced. He missed first base on a throw from second baseman Luis Maza on a ground ball and a sacrifice fly did both he and the Dodgers in. Saito had walked only five over his first 21.1 innings before the 37-pitch ninth inning but he had faced six batters in the inning and started five of them with a ball.

Of the last 16 runs the Dodgers have allowed, half of them (eight) resulted from walks.

Chan Ho Park took over in the 10th and after retiring the first Chicago batter gave up a double and then a gentle, game-winning single down the left-field line by Alfredo Soriano.

It was Saito's third blown save of the season, and he took full responsibility for the loss. "It's not the offense's fault. It's totally my fault," said Saito. "I erased Lowe's win and I pinned a loss on Chan Ho," Saito said. "I didn't do my job as a closer."

Before the game, Saito talked about how he felt that his days as a player could be coming to a close. "I want to play as long as I can, but I'm always thinking that my next game could be my last," he said. "So I'm not afraid of being hit. What I don't want to do is run away from a challenge. I don't want to give up walks because that's not the way I want to finish."

Lowe, who knows the loneliness a closer faces, empathized with Saito. "I really think that if anybody can understand about losing and frustrations, it's me and that's what makes it easier," said Lowe, a former closer. "You root for him and games like that are going to happen. I've blown a lot of games in my career, so I understand the feeling."

The Dodgers scored in the fourth inning after two-out singles by Russell Martin and James Loney. Matt Kemp was hit by a pitch and on a 3-2 pitch, Blake DeWitt to force in their only run. DeWitt knocked in two of the three Dodger runs in the series.

The Dodgers stranded 10 during the disappointing game, including the obligatory loading of the bases in the eighth inning and leaving empty-handed. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position (6-for-56, .109) dropped back to .500 on the season. They have scored eight runs during the last six games, four of them in a 4-3 win over St. Louis.

Of course, this isn't your father's Cubs. With the win, they are 22-8 at Wrigley Field, their best start at home since 1977, and are tied with Atlanta for most wins at home in the Major Leagues. They evened the all-time record against the Dodgers to 1,010-1,010, and are tied with Tampa Bay for the best record in the Major Leagues.

The Dodgers hurried through the showers and then boarded a plane for New York and four games with the Mets. Arizona, Colorado and San Diego lost so the Dodgers remain 3 /12 games behind the Snakes.

Pitching matchups for the series:
Thursday, May 29 - Brad Penny (5-5, 5.32) vs. RHP Claudio Vargas (1-2, 3.93)
Friday, May 30 - Clayton Kershaw (0-0, 3.00) vs. RHP John Maine (5-4, 3.41)
Saturday, May 31 - Chad Billingsley (4-6, 3.68) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (2-6, 5.33)
Sunday, June 1 - RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-4, 3.29) vs. LHP Johan Santana (6-3, 3.41)
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	000 100 000 0-1
Chicago	        000 000 001 1-2

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	4  0  0  0  .276
Maza 2b	        5  0  1  0  .360
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .307
Martin c	5  1  3  0  .317
Loney 1b	5  0  1  0  .272
Kemp cf	        2  0  1  0  .312
DeWitt 3b	3  0  0  1  .294
Hu ss	        4  0  0  0  .170
Lowe p	        3  0  0  0  .227
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	0  0  0  0  .098
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Park p	        0  0  0  0  .000 
  Totals	35 1 7 1
  Chicago	32 2 7 2

 RBI- DeWitt (25). LOB- Los Angeles 10,
Chicago 7.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Lowe	        7.0  4  0-0  2  5  4.52
Broxton	        1.0  0  0-0  0  0  .403
Saito	        1.0  1  1-1  2  0  1.99
Park	        0.1  2  1-1  0  0  2.37
T- 3:07. Att- 39,945.
Surgery for Abreu-- Infielder Tony Abreu underwent hip surgery Wednesday in Vail, Colorado, to hopefully resolve eight months of searching for an answer to his pain. He is expected to be sidelined three months.

Once the heir-apparent to second baseman Jeff Kent, Abreu, 23, missed half of the 2007 season and underwent surgery last October to repair a sports hernia. But he again had discomfort in the groin area, and specialists had been unable to pinpoint the cause.

Abreu's doctors in Vail suspected problem was the result of torn labrum inside the hip joint, which tends to transfer pain to other locations, like the groin area.

Abreu will be on crutches during a two-week therapy program, after which doctors will determine the next step and location of his recovery. It will be at least six weeks before he can resume limited baseball activities.

Abreu is versatile utility man that can play second base, third base and shortstop. If healthy, he would have replaced shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has been disabled for nearly three weeks.

Torre said he is not expecting Abreu back this year, but said "hopefully, this will solve all the problems the kid's gone through." They hope he can be back in time for winter ball back in the Dominican.

Second baseman Jeff Kent missed his second consecutive game because of tightness in his lower back. Kent refused to talk about his condition, but trainer Stan Conte said Kent was feeling better and could be back in the lineup for the start of a four-game series today in New York.

Manager Joe Torre said "He's getting older, but he's pretty honest and if he doesn't think he can still hit, he certainly would own up to that fact," Torre said. "I don't see it. It's been very frustrating for him knowing he's fouling pitches off, hitting some pitches right at people. Then he gets a couple of hits the other day and had to be shut down."

With Kent out of the lineup, Luis Maza started at second base. Torre said that third baseman Blake DeWitt, who played second base as recently as 2006 in Class A, will start taking grounders at the position.

Another option is third baseman Andy LaRoche, who is in triple-A Las Vegas working out as a first baseman. Torre hinted that LaRoche could be close to being called up.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The first results is out for the 2008 All-Star balloting and Russell Martin is the only Dodger player in the top five at any position. The Dodger catcher ranks fourth with 160,140 votes, which is behind the Cubs' Geovany Soto (343,427), the Braves' Brian McCann (229,743), and the Cardinals' Yadier Molina (188,313). Last season, Martin was more than 140,000 votes behind the leader when balloting was first released but due to tremendous fan support, was named the starting catcher on the NL All-Star team. He became the third Canadian player to start an All-Star Game, joining Larry Walker and Jason Bay. ...Cory Wade turned 25 years old in Chicago and shares his birthday with former Dodger MVP Kirk Gibson. The Indianapolis native has several guests in town from his hometown, including his parents.