The Report of Their Death Highly Exaggerated

Los Angeles limped into Phoenix after being swept by Philadelphia and Washington and promptly lost 9-3 in the opening game. Then the always inexplicable Dodgers knocked off two Arizona aces back-to-back, banging Brandon Webb around in an 8-1 win to take the series and giving Lowe his first win in eight starts in Phoenix.

As Alice would have said, "Curiouser and Curiouser."

They were without the big bat of Jeff Kent and they used the home run ball, of all things to pull within 2 1/2 games of first place. In a time when the unexpected is expected, the three-game series with last place San Diego is a thing to be leery of.

Buoyed by a remarkable performance by Derek Lowe and a pair of first-inning home runs by Andre Ethier and Casey Blake, plus a costly Arizona error, allowed the Dodgers to jump into an 8-0 lead after four innings. That number of runs would have covered four games in during the losing streak.

Lowe (11-11) worked six strong shutout innings as the Dodgers took the final two games of a three-game series from Arizona to snap an eight-game losing streak and the two crucial wins came against Webb, was trying to become the first 20-game winner this season, and Dan Haren by a combined score of 14-3.

Lowe has an 1.87 ERA in his past five starts, and was being moved up a day in the rotation so he wouldn't pitch in Coors Field later this month

Los Angeles won a road series for the first time since July 20, when they also took two of three in Phoenix.

So go figure.

"We're going to have go make a substantial run of victories in a row at some point if we want to really catch them and pull away," Lowe said. "Hopefully this can be the start of it."

The substantial run will have to come without second baseman Jeff Kent, who is having knee surgery tomorrow to remove cartilage in his knee.

On the other side of the field, Arizona's hopes of turning things around will have to come in a three-game series against St. Louis that opens today at Chase Field. They've dropped six of seven but have only lost a half game to the Dodgers over that time in the carnival known as the National League West.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks meet again for three games September 5-6-7 in Chavez Ravine.

Lowe (11-11), who lived up to his big-game reputation, left after 80 pitches and allowed four hits and one walk in six innings while striking out two.

Manager Joe Torre removed him from the game with the big lead and three relievers, Scott Elbert, Cory Wade and Johathan Broxton worked an inning each, allowed one hit and struck out seven over the final three innings.

Elbert, in his second National League game, allowed a home run to Mark Reynolds snap the shutout. His his brief major league career Elbert has retired five batters, all on strikeouts.

Lowe's opponent, Brandon Webb (19-6) failed in his second bid to become the majors' first 20-game winner. He allowed six earned runs, eight hits and five walks in 3.1 innings, tying his shortest outing of the season.

Manny Ramirez, who reached base eight times in nine trips to the plate in the first two games of the series, was pitched around most of the game. He was walked three times in the first four innings, twice intentionally. In his only at-bat he flew deep to center field in the fifth.

After Russell Martin bounced out to second base leading off, Ethier hit an 0-2 pitch 401 feet into the swimming pool beyond the right-center field wall.

After a walk to Ramirez, a single by Loney and and a fielder's choice, Blake hit a 2-0 fastball even farther -- 432 feet -- off a railing above the pool to put the Dodgers ahead 4-0.

Webb had allowed only two homers in his previous 70.2 innings.

Blake DeWitt, filling in for Kent, hit a sacrifice fly in the third to score Kemp, who had singled and stolen his 31st base.

With a 5-0 lead in the fourth, Martin singled and stole second (#13), then scored on Ether's 30th double. Ramirez drew his third walk before Kemp hit a ground ball that went through Reynolds at third for a two-run error.

Loney and DeWitt singled in the sixth; Juan Pierre and Loney singled in the eighth but nothing came of either budding rally.

"It's a funny game," said Torre. "Baseball is a game of streaks. It certainly looked like we were in tough times this week, especially after losing the first game here, then we come back and win the next two. You saw a different personality after the win yesterday.

The Dodgers will open the San Diego series with Greg Maddux (6-11), who will be pitching against his old teammates for the first time since leaving the Padres.

Maddux was hit hard in his his last start and in Washington, two errors (one his own) led to two crucial unearned runs that cost him a second loss.

The veteran can make an impact even when he is not pitching. Along with teammates, he often will be found watching video and pointing out things no one else notices.

"He's been great," Torre said. "He's here early, he's on that video watching guys hit, starting to get tendencies. It's great to see. Sometimes, I think we overdo this technology stuff, but he knows how to use it."

Maddux (6-11, 4.22 ERA) will be opposed by RHP Chris Young (4-4, 4.74 ERA). Young suffered a strained forearm in a start against Colorado on Aug. 10 and went on the DL. He also missed 59 games after being hit in the face with a line drive in May. He will be making his first start since coming off the disabled list.

The matchups for the entire series:
Today, RHP Greg Maddux vs. RHP Chris Young
Tuesday, LHP Clayton Kershaw (2-5, 4.56) vs. RHP Cha Seung Baek (4-8, 4.85)
Wednesday, RHP Hiroki Kuroda (7-9, 3.87) vs. a starter to be announced.

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	401 300 000-8
Arizona	        000 000 100-1

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Martin c	4  1  1  0  .283
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
Ethier rf	5  2  2  2  .277
Ramirez lf	1  2  0  0  .415
 Pierre lf	1  0  1  0  .278
 Loney 1b	5  0  3  0  .304
Kemp cf	        5  2  1  0  .291
Blake 3b	4  1  1  2  .271
DeWitt 3b	3  0  1  1  .259
Berroa ss	4  0  1  0  .225
Lowe p	        3  0  1  0  .161
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .138
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Ardoin c	1  0  0  0  .231
  Totals	37 8 12 6
  Arizona	29 1  5 1

 Two-base hits- Ethier (30). HR- Ethier (18),
Blake (6). SF- DeWitt. RBI- Ethier 2 (59),
Blake 3 (17), DeWitt (37). SB- Kemp (31), 
Martin (13). LOB- Los Angeles 10, Arizona
3. DP- Berroa, DeWitt and Loney. 

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Lowe (11-11)	6.0  4  0-0  1  2  3.69
Elbert        	1.0  1  1-1  0  3  5.40
Wade        	1.0  0  0-0  0  1  2.63
Broxton        	1.0  0  0-0  0  3  3.59
 T-3:03. Att- 43,456.
Operation for Kent-- Second baseman Jeff Kent will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday (tomorrow) in Los Angeles. The Dodgers hope to have him back by the end of the month, perhaps as a pinch-hitter.

The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer has torn cartilage in his left knee that is catching in the joint. He returned to Los Angeles for an MRI after aggravating the injury in Friday's loss to Arizona.

The Dodgers are expected to place Kent on the 15-day disabled list.

A five-time All-Star and former National League MVP, Kent is hitting .275 with 11 home runs and 57 RBI in 117 games this season.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Lowe had a scary moment in Arizona when 1B Tony Clark's bat shattered and the bat head lodged in the back of the mound. "I'm not commissioner, but you'd think he'd want to look into this because it happens too frequently, and it's not just how they break, it's the distance that they fly," Lowe said. "It's definitely scary when it's coming right at you and then it sticks in the ground. Luckily it stuck there instead of somewhere else." ...Matt Kemp stole his 30th base of the season Saturday to become just the fifth player in Los Angeles Dodgers history to steal 30 bases and hit 30 doubles in a season. Rafael Furcal (2006), Raul Mondesi (1997), Steve Sax (1986) and Bill Buckner (1974) are the others. Kemp needs four more doubles and nine more steals to join Sax as the only Los Angeles Dodger to steal 40 bases and hit 40 doubles. ...James Loney extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his 3-for-5 performance. He's hitting .444 (20-for-45) over that stretch. ...Since blowing a save on Aug. 24, Jonathan Broxton has struck out the side swinging twice in a pair of one-inning appearances. ...Casey Blake has hit safely in eight of nine games, batting .303 in that time. ...The Dodgers homered in back-to-back games the past two days for the third time this year. ...On Friday and Saturday, Manny Ramirez became the first Dodgers player to record consecutive four-hit games in his first season with the team since Jimmy Wynn did so in 1974. His two RBIs on Saturday also pushed him past Cal Ripken Jr. for No. 22 on the all-time RBI list, five behind Reggie Jackson.