Derek Lowe (12-11) came from Boston with the reputation of rising to the occasion late in the season when all the chips are on the table and he has done just that in his fourth season in Dodger Blue.
One of the few pitchers who have both won 20 games and saved 40, he was brilliant this night against the Diamondbacks, holding them to two hits over eight innings while extending his scoreless streak to 19 innings.
Just as advertised, he improved to 4-1 over his past six starts and has given up more than three earned runs just once in his past nine starts.
Lowe now has a 14 scoreless inning streak against the Diamondbacks, has topped Arizona ace Dan Harden in back to back starts, and didn't give up his first hit of the game until Conor Jackson singled to left in the fourth inning. That hit and an infield single by Chris Young were the extent of the Diamondbacks' offense and Chan Ho Park closed out the victory with a perfect ninth inning.
"The big lead definitely helped," Lowe said. In Lowe's 11 losses, the Dodgers scored a total of 16 runs, were shut out twice and held to one run six times. But they've scored 15 runs for him in his last two wins against the D-backs.
"Today was a real contrast to last time I faced the Diamondbacks when I had a below-average sinker. They were looking breaking ball, I guess, because of the last time so I used my curve."
Ethier again flirted with a cycle, going 5-for-5 and driving in a career-high five runs. After he homered, singled and hit a ground-rule double in his first three at-bats, he doubled to left-center in the sixth. When Arizona center fielder Chris Young fumbled the ball, Ethier broke for third, changed his mind, and was tagged out in a rundown.
Ethier's hit probably wouldn't have been the triple he needed for the cycle since since Young probably would have drawn an error on the play.
"I was really tempted to try for third, but it's been instilled in you since you were a little kid: `Never make the last out at third,"' Ethier said. "And that kind of held me up. But we did what we set out to accomplish, which was to win that game against one of their top starters."
He had homered, singled and tripled in Los Angeles' 8-4 win over San Diego on Tuesday.
Ethier is batting .733 (11-for-15) for the homestand. He also has a five-game hitting streak, during which he is batting a less-impressive .650 (13-for-20). When asked what the difference has been, he replied, "Two words," Manny Ramirez.
"It's great to be getting a chance to hit in front of him. When there is somebody on base they come after you and when you are the leadoff guy in the inning, they come after you because they are thinking about Manny. What a great time for him to be here."
Ethier hit his 20th homer off Haren in the first inning, a two-run single in the second and RBI doubles in the fourth and sixth as Los Angeles opened a 6-0 lead. It took him until the eighth inning before he came up with a single.
Ramirez, who didn't have a hit, RBI or run scored but was intentionally walked twice. Russell Martin scored three runs. Lowe scored one, keying a three-run second inning with a two-out walk sandwiched between doubles by Angel Berroa and Martin.
It was the Dodgers' 11th shutout this season. Arizona has been blanked six times.
The Dodgers jumped on Haren, coming off a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers last Saturday in Arizona, for five runs and six hits in four innings. He fell to 3-3 in his last seven starts.
"It was a heckuva night," a smiling Torre said. "Our guys are playing with intensity. It's a lot of fun right now."
After the game, Arizona manager Bob Melvin sounded much like Torre did just a week ago when the Dodgers struggled through their losing streak.
"Everything was at the knees and down, both sides of the plate, sinker on the plate and away from left-handers," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "When you see him get a lot of groundballs early on in some early count swings, it means he's on his game.
"They outhit us, they outpitched us and played better than we did in the field. So we're going to have to refocus and come out tomorrow and take it to them early on."
"Guys are having a little more fun now," Torre said. "That's what a little wining streak will do for you, and there's no question that the Saturday and Sunday games that we played in Arizona after losing eight in a row, it's tough for me to fathom that we're going to face more pressure than we had in those two games. Psychologically, I think it has to help us."
Lowe was again asked to explain why he's now 11-2 in two stints as a teammate and friend of Greg Maddux.
"There's a comfort level to him," Lowe said. "I ask him questions throughout the game. I give Rick Honeycutt credit for allowing that communication. He sees we have a rapport. I'm a ground-ball pitcher, like him. Maybe he'll follow me around the rest of my career."
Lowe's four-year, $36 million contract runs out after this year. He said there have been no talks about an extension and he said, "You're crazy to worry about that now."
Brandon Webb will try for his 20th win for the third time when he faces Los Angeles' Chad Billingsley in the second game of the series tonight.
Score by innings Arizona 000 000 000-0 Los Angeles 130 101 10x-7 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Martin c 3 2 1 1 .283 Ardoin c 0 0 0 0 .231 Ethier rf 5 1 5 5 .292 Ramirez lf 2 0 0 0 .400 Repko ph-lf 1 0 1 0 .222 Blake 3b 3 1 1 0 .276 Hu 2b 1 0 0 0 .157 Loney 1b 5 0 1 0 .303 Kemp cf 2 0 0 0 .287 DeWitt 3b 4 0 0 0 .257 Berroa ss 3 1 1 0 .236 Lowe p 3 1 0 0 .153 Park p 0 0 0 0 .111 Totals 32 7 10 7 Arizona 29 0 2 0 Two base its- Berroa (10), Martin (22). HR- Ethier (20). RBI- Ethier 5 (65), Martin (56), DeWitt (41). SB- Martin (15). LOB- Los Angeles 10, Arizona 4. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Lowe (12-11) 8.0 2 0-0 2 4 3.53 Park 1.0 0 0-0 0 2 3.01 HBP- Blake. T- 2:36. Att- 52,270.Scully to Return
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said he will return to the Dodgers for a 60th season at the microphone in 2009. Scully, whose current three-year contract runs through 2008, said he decided to return after receiving clearance from his wife, Sandra.
"When you're on the road as much as we are, it's the loneliness of your wife that you consider," Scully, 80, said. "But she said, 'It's been such a part of my life for so long, you might as well do it if you want to do it.' And I still enjoy it. I still feel like I'm happy to be here, I still get goosebumps with an exciting play. So, I told Frank McCourt that I'll try it for another year."
Scully said he will continue with the same broadcasting workload -- calling virtually all home games, plus road games as far east as Colorado. He said he made no commitment beyond 2009.
Torre 'Would Love to have Manny Back'
Manny Ramirez kick-started the Dodgers' late season surge but there's no guarantee he will stay past the 2008 season. The supposition is that he and his agent Scott Boras will be asking for a long-term contract.
"He seems to like it here," Torre said. "As far as staying, it's up to him. He's got to do the best for his family. I'd love to have him back only if he's as happy as he seems to be."
Torre noted that Ramirez's reputation for spotty defense has not been an issue. Plus he loosens up the clubhouse by talking about Gold Gloves when he comes in after making a nice catch and by starting a wild celebration with his teammates when he returns to the dugout after smashing a home run.
"He's a lot deeper than people thought he would be, his feel for the game," Torre said. "He's very sensitive to other players' needs. Players seem to gravitate to him. It's been very satisfying to me having him here."
And, of course, he's hit an even .400 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 33 games and has been at his best against the first-place D-backs, hitting .660 (14-for-25) with four homers, four doubles, four walks, seven RBIs, 11 runs, a .747 on-base percentage and a 1.391 slugging percentage in six games.
Dodger Blue Notes --Pablo Ozuna, who was Designated for Assignment last week, cleared waivers and the Dodgers' purchased his contract. They cleared a 40-man spot by placing Mario Alvarez on the 60-day DL. ...Takashi Saito threw breaking balls during a bullpen session and reported no pain in his right elbow. Saito has been on the disabled list since July 18 with a damaged ligament. Saito's next step is to throw a brief simulated game after the Dodgers' game against the Diamondbacks Sunday. ...Torre said that Juan Pierre was 100 percent healthy and available whenever he is needed. Pierre left Tuesday's game with lower back tightness. ...Brad Penny had an extensive bullpen session, threw all of his pitches and reported no problems. He might face hitters as soon as Monday in San Diego. "Penny is a day or two behind Saito, but they both seem to be doing extremely well," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "Penny's arm slot is consistent and the ball is coming out of his hand extremely well. And he feels he's throwing only 70 percent." ...Shortstop Rafael Furcal was expected to rejoin the club after rehabilitating from back surgery in Arizona, but Torre said it wasn't clear when or if Furcal would be seen in game action. ...Jeff Kent continues to report improvement after his knee surgery. Kent will accompany the club on its three-city trip beginning Monday in San Diego, but Torre said it was still too soon to tell whether he will return this season, even for pinch-hitting. ...Clayton Kershaw will face Randy Johnson in the Sunday game instead of RHP Greg Maddux. Maddux and Johnson, who have a combined 648 wins and nine Cy Young Awards, have faced each other only once in the regular season. Johnson was disappointed they won't get to tangle again this weekend. "To me, he's the greatest pitcher of my generation," said Johnson, 60 wins behind Maddux's 354. "What he's done is staggering. I'm just trying to get to 300 wins, and he's got 350. There are still things in this game that blow me away, and that is definitely one of them."