Dodgers undone by D-Backs

Dodgers undone by D-Backs

LOS ANGELES -- It's unclear how much their flurry of roster moves in the last year improved the Dodgers, but clearly they've improved the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Javier Vazquez, passed over when the Dodgers pulled the plug on his proposed acquisition, held them to five hits over eight innings and former teammate Shawn Green drove in a run in his Dodger Stadium return, a 4-2 win Monday night that pulled Arizona to within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Dodgers.

Solo home runs from J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent couldn't overcome the hole that starting pitcher Derek Lowe (1-2) dug, continuing a disturbing trend for Dodger starters as they opened a nine-game homestand.

Lowe allowed as many earned runs in this game (four) as he had in his other four starts combined. That included a three-run first inning, the sixth consecutive game that the Dodgers trailed by the end of the second inning. They are 2-4 in those games, while the Diamondbacks, last place in 2004, have a four-game win streak.

"I'm glad you noticed," deadpanned Lowe. "I walked the first guy on four pitches. If I knew what I was doing wrong, I guess I wouldn't have done it. The biggest thing was poor location."

The biggest run scored off Lowe in the seventh inning when Craig Counsell, another former Dodger, singled with one out and stole second. Lowe struck out Alex Cintron, bringing up Luis Gonzalez with Troy Glaus on deck.

Gonzalez already had two hits and Glaus had a two-run double in the first inning, so there wasn't much to choose from. With first base open, Lowe pitched to Gonzalez, who stroked a 2-2 pitch into left for an RBI single that padded the advantage to 4-1.

"I was very frustrated with myself on the Gonzalez hit," said Lowe. "That time I felt the momentum had shifted to our side and with a two-run game we'd have a better chance."

Ironically, the Dodgers signed Lowe as a free agent to head their rotation after backing out of a complicated trade of Green that would have brought Vazquez to Los Angeles. The only problem was that Vazquez wanted no part of playing on the West Coast, so the Dodgers instead sent Green and $10 million to the Diamondbacks for three prospects. But they redirected the remaining savings from Green's salary to improve the starting pitching by signing Lowe.

The Dodgers pushed around Vazquez two weeks ago in Phoenix, but there would be no dramatic comeback this time, only Kent's solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. There was a belated attempt at a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth when pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee walked and Cesar Izturis singled for the second time.

That would have brought up Hee-Seop Choi, who had a pair of solid at-bats in the game despite going 0-for-3. Manager Jim Tracy, however, sent up pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz, sensing there might not be another opportunity for his best clutch hitter.

"If that was going to be our only opportunity," said Tracy, "we had to cash in."

Relying on curveballs, Vazquez jumped ahead 0-2 and another former Dodger, catcher Koyie Hill, called time to huddle with Vazquez, who then delivered another breaking ball low and away. Saenz tried to hold up, but on an appeal first-base umpire Greg Gibson rang up Saenz for Vazquez's ninth strikeout.

"In that count I know he doesn't want to give me anything to hit," said Saenz. "I just got defensive, trying to put a ball in play."

The Dodgers did little of that. Drew's home run with two out in the fourth was their first hit of the game. Kent's homer, his sixth of the year, was his second against Vazquez this season. The other was a two-run shot in the first inning Apr. 9, when the Dodgers tagged Vazquez for five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"That was a different guy than the first time," said Jose Valentin, who made a pair of difficult defensive plays returning to the lineup after bruising his right hand when hit by a pitch Saturday night. "He was throwing strikes tonight, so he was getting ahead and using his change-up and curveball. He had an early lead to work with and we never really put any pressure on him."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.