LOS ANGELES -- For the second Sunday in a row, the Dodgers took a scoreless tie into the ninth, but this time around, the result was not any better than last weekend in Colorado. Once again, Los Angeles dropped a 1-0 decision, losing in 11 innings at Dodger Stadium. With the D-backs defeating the Rockies earlier in the day, the Dodgers' lead in the National League West was cut to 2 1/2 games heading into the final week. Their magic number to clinch remains at five. The final 16 batters the Dodgers sent to the plate returned to the dugout after making an out in a game featuring a series of stellar defensive plays from San Francisco.
"They played excellent, a couple of diving plays in right field, a diving play in left field, a perfect throw to the plate," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "There were a lot of things going on that made a difference, but we didn't hit a lot." Added first baseman James Loney, the victim of three great plays: "We were just finding the wrong places. It's hard to control that type of stuff. You try to go up there with the right approach, try to hit the ball hard somewhere." After 10 innings of scoreless ball, the Dodgers' pitching staff finally gave in during the 11th as a result of a bizarre sequence of plays with Takashi Saito (4-4) on the mound. The Giants' Saturday night starter, Brad Hennessey, pinch-ran at first with two outs and stole second without a throw on a two-strike pitch to Eugenio Velez. Loney played right behind Hennessey at first, but he got a nice jump and eased into second. Then the speedy Velez beat out a throw from shortstop Chin-lung Hu on what Torre called a "bang-bang" play, and Rich Aurilia drove in Hennessey for the only run of the game with a single. In his pregame media session, Torre said he likely would not use Saito after he threw an inning on Saturday, but the manager later found out Saito felt fine and was thus available, so he was not forced into duty because game went extra innings. "I thought he threw better than yesterday, to be honest with you," Torre said. Derek Lowe also threw well on a day that continued his season-long frustrations involving a lack of run support. Lowe yielded five hits in seven scoreless innings, throwing 120 pitches, his second-highest total of the year. The right-hander, who did not speak with reporters after the game, has been on a major roll since a tough outing on Aug. 6 in St. Louis, going 6-1 with a 1.33 ERA in his last nine starts to lower his ERA from 4.10 to 3.29. In four September starts, he's compiled an ERA of 0.66. "Lowe was great," Torre said. "It was pretty impressive. He felt good all the way to the seventh. He did his job, no question." In what looked like a repeat of last Sunday's game when Lowe's buddy Greg Maddux threw seven scoreless innings in Colorado, followed by another two scoreless from Cory Wade, just like in this affair, Matt Cain matched Lowe like Aaron Cook did Maddux last week. Cain threw six shutout innings, giving up five hits, while keeping the Dodgers off balance all afternoon. "Today, it was pretty bright out there, it's not the easiest to see," said third baseman Casey Blake, who went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. "With a guy like Cain throwing, it doesn't make matters any better. There just wasn't a whole of hitting going on today. It's frustrating." The little hitting the Dodgers did do came early, when they loaded the bases with no outs in the first, only to leave them stranded -- and threaten just once more the entire game. In that opening frame, Loney lined to short before Blake and Matt Kemp struck out swinging to end the threat. Then, in the fifth, center fielder Aaron Rowand threw out Angel Berroa from second on a sharply hit single off the bat of Andre Ethier, making a perfect throw to gun down the shortstop. After Manny Ramirez's third walk of the game, Loney lined out to left to end what would be Los Angeles' last rally of the game and leave the bases loaded. Torre defended third-base coach Larry Bowa's decision to send Berroa. "It's wrong, because he was out, but we haven't done anything different all year, we played an aggressive style, and I certainly have no problem with sending Angel there," he said. "The throw had to be perfect, and there was still a question, another bang-bang. It never looks good when that happens, but I have no problem with it." The Giants took pleasure in tightening up the NL West race, with Rowand saying the Giants want to play the spoiler role, and Nate Schierholtz adding: "There's no other team we'd rather beat." But even with the loss, the Dodgers have still won 16 of 21 games. That means one good week of baseball would result in a postseason trip. Los Angeles had won six consecutive series before this weekend. "Nobody's panicking," Blake said. "We're in the driver's seat right now."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.