Many have a hand in stepping on Angels

Lowe, Ethier propel Freeway sweep

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers caught a team in disarray over the weekend and did what needed to be done, completing their first Interleague series sweep over the Angels on Sunday with a 7-0 shutout.

"You understand that a team is struggling and you might have an advantage on that day and you try not to waste it," said veteran Jeff Kent. "It's not gloating. We just did our job today."

Derek Lowe pitched like an ace, implementing pitching coach Rick Honeycutt's game plan well enough for seven scoreless innings on three hits. Rookie Andre Ethier slugged a three-run homer to cap a five-run first inning, Nomar Garciaparra drove in another three runs, Kenny Lofton had three hits and two runs, and the Angels, after wasting a bases-loaded situation in the first inning, went quietly.

The Dodgers have won their last four, 12 of the last 15, and, in a division where two games separate bottom from top, they are only one game behind the first-place Colorado Rockies, who open a three-game series at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. They lead the league in runs scored.

The victory was only the second of the season for Lowe, who, despite the club's improved offensive production, has been starved for run support, going the previous six starts without a victory. After escaping a 30-pitch first inning by striking out Garret Anderson with one out and getting Rob Quinlan on a grounder with two out, Lowe had a windfall of run support with which to work.

But he still had to contend with a lineup stacked by left-handed hitters, and Lowe credited Honeycutt for pregame instructions to pound them inside with cutters and four-seam fastballs, taking Lowe out of his normal style of sinkers away.

"It was nothing earth-shaking," said Honeycutt. "Certain guys, you need to throw in to keep them honest."

Lowe also got a key double-play grounder from Dallas McPherson to evade a first-and-third situation in the third inning, and he talked manager Grady Little into letting him finish the seventh inning with a runner on second, getting Chone Figgins on a grounder.

Lowe combined with Jonathan Broxton, who pitched the final two innings, on a four-hitter against the Angels, who are 10 games below .500 after being outscored in the series, 31-7.

"If you want to win a lot of games, you've got to beat the teams you're supposed to beat," said Lowe. "In this three-game series, we couldn't have played better than we did."

Ethier and Garciaparra, the rookie replacement and the resurrected veteran, carried the offense.

Ethier capped a remarkable series, going 7-for-13 with two homers and six RBIs, which included a 5-for-5 game Friday. He came into the homestand hitting .222 and left at .306.

"It's still tough to get used to seeing my name in the lineup with all of these All-Stars around you," said Ethier, promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas when bench player Ricky Ledee was hurt. Now that Jason Repko is out a month or more with a sprained ankle, Ethier is inching ahead of Jose Cruz Jr. for starts in left field.

"I was thinking that three years ago, I was sitting in the stands here while playing for ASU [Arizona State University] in the Super Regionals, just watching a game," Ethier said. "Now I'm on the field, playing with the Dodgers. It's pretty surreal."

It's also another example -- along with the play of Russell Martin, Willy Aybar and Broxton -- that the Dodgers can trust their farm system. All four of the players began the season at Triple-A, yet all four played critical roles Sunday. Little is now regularly employing three rookies in the starting eight.

In addition to Ethier's home run, Martin started the seventh-inning rally with a leadoff single, Aybar preceded Ethier's homer with an RBI single and Broxton didn't allow a run. Martin, taking over behind the plate for the injured Dioner Navarro, is batting .298; Aybar, getting most of the playing time at third base since Bill Mueller's knee surgery, is at .370; and Broxton has an ERA of 0.90 with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings.

"This organization has a lot of talented kids," said Kent. "[General manager Ned] Colletti did a great job of not trading off the future. We've got some good young players and that makes my job easier."

Meanwhile, Garciaparra continues to play like the Most Valuable Player on the team. He had a pair of doubles Sunday, driving in one run in the first inning and two in the seventh. He went 7-for-13 in the series and is hitting .395 in May. His 29 RBIs are second on the club, and he missed the first 17 games with a pulled side muscle.

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