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Lowe shuts down Nationals

Lowe shuts down Nationals

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LOS ANGELES -- Derek Lowe had more hits Saturday night than he allowed and it's been awhile since that happened.

"High school. Maybe Little League," said Lowe, who threw a one-hitter over eight innings and added two hits as the Dodgers scored an easy 6-0 win over the Nationals.

Matt Kemp and Nomar Garciaparra homered against former Dodgers starter Odalis Perez, and Casey Blake had a double, single and scored a run in his debut as the new third baseman.

But Lowe's seemingly effortless outing was the true highlight for the Dodgers during a weekend in which they are thinking pennant race as much as they are beating the Nationals, who have the worst record in the league and have been shut out in three of Perez's past four starts.

The Dodgers not only acquired Blake from Cleveland for Minor Leaguers Jon Meloan and Carlos Santana in the morning, but Lowe took a pass on a complete-game shutout to save some bullets for his next start Thursday night, the opener of a four-game showdown with first-place Arizona.

"It was up to me," said Lowe, who allowed a double off the fence by Ronnie Belliard, a walk in the fourth inning and was perfect in the other seven. "I understand who my next start is going to be against. It's not the time to be a hero and pitch complete games. It's time to be as strong as you can every time out. I'd rather save those 20 pitches for them."

Lowe -- who pitched a no-hitter for Boston against Tampa Bay in 2002 and a one-hitter for the Dodgers against the Cubs in 2005 -- was keyed up for this game after throwing in a clunker against the Diamondbacks last week, spotting Arizona a three-run first inning against ace Brandon Webb in a game the Dodgers won with a stunning five-run ninth inning.

Lowe was pitching that game on 10 days' rest, in part because of the All-Star break, in part because he didn't want to pitch in Coors Field the following series. He became part of a string of six games without a quality start from a Dodgers pitcher.

So as a follow-up to Chad Billingsley's victory Friday night and with the win over Washington appearing in hand, Lowe turned it over to the bullpen having induced 15 ground-ball outs, relying solely on a sinker and curveball.

The fact that the victory only evened his record at 8-8 is more an indictment of a lack of offensive support over the first half of the year, which is what led to the Blake trade. The Dodgers have scored eight runs total in Lowe's eight losses.

The acquisition of Blake, however, has added a needed proven bat to the lineup and lifted spirits in a clubhouse that was deflated when the Dodgers were unable to acquire CC Sabathia. And they know they must take advantage of the schedule when a last-place team comes to town.

"I feel like we've got a better team, so we should win these games. It's simple," catcher Russell Martin said. "The thing about baseball, you can't treat your opponent lightly. But I feel we should win every game against teams like they've got."

Kemp followed Juan Pierre's leadoff single in the first inning with his team-high 12th homer, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. Martin doubled and eventually scored on Garciaparra's sacrifice fly.

In the fourth, Blake followed Garciaparra's fifth homer with a double and was doubled home by Angel Berroa, who started at shortstop with Garciaparra making his first start of the season at first base. Garciaparra has 14 RBIs in 17 games since returning from the disabled list July 4. Lowe capped the scoring with an RBI single to score Berroa.

"I feel bad because I wanted to come to Dodger Stadium and show [how I won a lot of games] in this stadium," said Perez, who pitched for the Dodgers for 4 1/2 seasons until being traded to Kansas City July 25, 2006. "Today, I didn't have my good stuff."

Lowe, whose name has cropped up recently in trade rumors to the Yankees and Tigers, can be a free agent after this season. He came to the Dodgers after spending an emotional free-agent season in Boston and said he learned a lesson about playing with an uncertain future.

"This time of year, in your free-agent year, MLB has rumor sites for a reason," he said. "Almost everyone's name is tossed around. I expect it. I don't go out trying to prove my worth in a trade or whether they should keep me. You allow yourself to get caught up in that and only negative things happen. I learned a lot in Boston, learned a lot about what not to do. It's a lot easier this time around."

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

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