For eight games, the Dodgers couldn't beat anybody. Then they beat the two best pitchers on the team they're chasing, Dan Haren and Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Manny Ramirez manhandled Haren on Saturday night and Andre Ethier and Casey Blake did the same to Webb on Sunday in an 8-1 Dodgers win that trimmed their deficit in the National League West back to 2 1/2 games.
That's only one-half game further back than the Dodgers were before the tailspin started, almost like it never happened. At least, that's the approach they're taking. The D-backs, with the chance to bury them, instead lost six of seven and kept the Dodgers very much in the race.
"It's a funny game," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who announced after the game that Jeff Kent would undergo knee surgery on Tuesday. "Baseball is a game of streaks. It certainly looked like we were in tough times this week, especially after losing the first game here, then we come back and win the next two. You saw a different personality after the win yesterday."
Webb came into the game 19-5 and 10-3 lifetime against the Dodgers, but they scored four runs in the first inning with a solo home run by Ethier on an 0-2 pitch (9-for-18 against Webb) and a three-run shot by Blake.
Then they chased Webb with three runs in the fourth inning, Ethier doubling and two runs scoring on an error by Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds. Webb also had five walks and has allowed 12 earned runs in his past eight innings.
Meanwhile, Derek Lowe (11-11) was living up to the big-game reputation he earned during the 2004 postseason for Boston. He allowed only four hits over six scoreless innings, lifted after 80 pitches with a big lead to save some bullets for his next start, coincidentally Friday night, coincidentally against the same D-backs.
Lowe, with a 1.87 ERA in his past five starts, is being moved up a day in the rotation so he won't be required to pitch in Coors Field later this month.
"We found a way to score off two All-Star pitchers," said Lowe, giving credit to the Dodgers' offense. "This is the first time I've ever won in this stadium. It seems like I always face Webb, but usually I'm the one on the other side scuffling. The way this division is close, we're going to have to go on a substantial run if we want to pull away."
The Dodgers' offense, powered by Ramirez's eight hits the previous two games, kept scoring even though the D-backs pitched around the left fielder in this game with three walks.
Ethier, who has a team-high 18 homers, agreed with Torre that the Manny-led victory Saturday night not only snapped the losing streak but relieved the pressure.
"Last night gave us the feeling we could win again," Ethier said. "But you wouldn't have really known we lost eight. It's not like we were seriously hanging our heads. We knew we would snap out of it. If you stay confident, things will turn around eventually."
Ethier had some theories on what sent the team into its worst tailspin of the season.
"Maybe there was too much looking forward to this series that we weren't up for the other games and not focused on what's in front of us," he said of the sweeps suffered in Philadelphia and Washington. "And you hate to say it, but maybe we were a little tired with the schedule, but everyone goes through that every season."
Blake had no theories on what went wrong, but seemed to be enjoying the swings of this race.
"It's one of the greatest things about this game," he said. "We really weathered the storm and, fortunately, Arizona wasn't playing real well either. It could have gotten real ugly, but it happens in this game. You keep playing the game, keep weathering the storm and remain positive and all of a sudden you find yourself right back in it."
The only D-backs run came on Reynolds' homer in the seventh inning off rookie left-handed reliever Scott Elbert, making his second Major League appearance. But Elbert also struck out the side. He has retired five batters in the two games, all on strikeouts.
Jonathan Broxton finished the game by striking out the side.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.