Derek Lowe now leads the league in complete games, but he also leads the league in complete-game losses after suffering his second in three starts. The Dodgers have scored seven runs in his five losses this season.
He was charged with four runs (three earned) and he suffered through a miserable fifth inning, in which the Angels had five ground-ball hits, three of them not leaving the infield.
"Derek had his best stuff all season long," said manager Grady Little, whose team's lead in the National League West has trimmed to one game. "He deserved a much better fate."
There was Erick Aybar's chopper that Lowe fielded behind the mound, but his off-balance throw was late. Jose Molina dribbled a well-placed hit-and-run single through the second-base hole vacated by Jeff Kent to put runners on the corners. Aybar was erased when he was tagged out in a collision with Martin on Tommy Murphy's fielder's choice grounder to first baseman Nomar Garciaparra, who gunned him down at home. Reggie Willits struck out, then Orlando Cabrera hit a chopper to third baseman Wilson Betemit, who had trouble transferring the ball from glove to throwing hand, got his feet tangled and his throw bounced late to first base. It was ruled a hit.
Vladimir Guerrero's grounder up the middle past a sprawling Lowe was gloved by shortstop Rafael Furcal, but his rushed and off-balance throw to first was wide and Garciaparra couldn't glove it cleanly while two runs scored. Gary Matthews Jr. then bounced an RBI single right past Lowe, again sending the pitcher face-first and spread eagle on the mound.
"Being a ground-ball pitcher, you take the good with the bad," said Lowe (4-5), who had the club's only complete game last year and the only two this year (the other coming on Josh Willingham's three-run walk-off homer in Florida). "It definitely was an eventful inning, a weird inning all the way around, and it was frustrating, because with [Kelvim] Escobar on his game and a 4-0 lead, they had the momentum."
The Dodgers scratched out only three singles off Escobar in eight scoreless innings, grounding into three double plays to snuff out potential rallies. They had only one hit between the first and ninth inning and scored their only run with two out in the ninth on an RBI double from Kent off Scot Shields that scored Juan Pierre.
"Sometimes the other team plays a little bit better," said Lowe, who struck out six without a walk. "They're just a good team. That organization over there doesn't get enough credit. Their offense doesn't hit home runs, but so what? They continue to put pressure on you. They execute extremely well."
And the Dodgers did not. They were 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position in the series. And they follow one hot opponent (the Angels have a five-game win streak) with another (Milwaukee's also in first place).
"With things like this, only time will tell," Lowe said. "We have to bounce back against another extremely hot team. Every team goes through these bumps. This team will find a way to get going again."
The Dodgers now are 1-20 in road Interleague games since 2005 and are 3-14 in the last 17 games at Angel Stadium.
"This kind of thing happens," said Little. "We started the week great and ended up playing poorly. We've got to get it turned around. We've got a lot of good hitters, and we have a lot of faith in what they can do. The other club got hits in key situations and caught the balls and we didn't. That was the difference. We didn't play good baseball defensively, and every mistake, we paid for it."
The Dodgers are now 6-13 when they score three runs or fewer, and they've been doing that with increasing frequency (nine of the last 19 games). They lead the league in stranding runners and are 14th in home runs with only 23 in 44 games.