05/18/08 8:30 PM ET
Dodgers drop Freeway Series finale
Lowe allows seven runs; club has lost nine of 11 to Angels
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
After the rare Dodgers win on Saturday, the Angels took the rubber match with a 10-2 blowout, Mike Napoli launching a pair of homers and driving in five. The Dodgers have lost nine of the last 11 games in this Interleague series, and 16 of the last 20 at Angel Stadium.
Before the game was two innings old, Dodgers starter Derek Lowe was reminded that no good deed goes unpunished. Starting on three days' rest to give Brad Penny's tight arm an extra day off, Lowe issued a four-pitch walk in the second inning and trouble followed.
First baseman James Loney threw a ball that might have been a double play into left field for the second straight game. Lowe -- and the game -- immediately unraveled.
After Loney's error, Lowe misplaced an 0-2 pitch that Napoli turned around for a three-run homer. So the Angels led 4-0 after 1 1/3 innings, and the Dodgers' only response off Jered Weaver was Jeff Kent's two-run single in the fourth.
For the rest of his five innings, with each Angels hit and each Angels run, Lowe's body language on the mound captured the frustration of his season. He screamed and stomped and contorted. Generally an upbeat competitor who never hides his emotions, his exasperation was out there for all to see.
Here Lowe is in a free agent year that is turning into a mess. He's 2-4 with a 5.34 ERA and winless since April 23, an innings-eater who hasn't pitched into the seventh inning in more than a month. He was charged with seven runs in five innings.
"You just take one for the team. Who else was going to pitch?" said Lowe. "It was a bullpen game yesterday [with Chan Ho Park and Hong-Chih Kuo throwing four innings each]. You're not going to use nine relievers today and screw up the whole series. I volunteered to go out there and I'm happy I did it. You play the game to play. Obviously, it didn't work out too well.
"It's just kind of a tough stretch I'm going through. You got a guy 0-2 and you know his strength's inside, and you end up throwing inside and he beats you."
It's hard to pin an eight-run loss on one defensive miscue, but the error charged to Loney was a clear example of the mistakes of youth. With one out and runners on the corners, Erick Aybar hit a chopper that Loney fielded a quarter of the way between first base and the mound.
Manager Joe Torre said Loney should have thrown home, but if not that, turned and stepped on first base for the sure out. Loney said he saw out of the corner of his eye that Torii Hunter broke from third on contact and might have beaten a throw, so instead Loney threw to second base.
Shortstop Chin-lung Hu, anticipating the throw to go home, was late covering second base. Loney's throw, which on Saturday sailed over Hu's head, was right at the bag, but Hu wasn't, so the ball wound up in left field again.
Instead of erasing the runner at the plate, or turning an inning-ending double play, or even getting the second out at second base, it was one out and one in and runners on second and third for Napoli's three-run homer. Napoli singled in another run off Lowe in the fourth inning and the Angels scored two more on a pair of two-out, RBI singles in the fifth.
"I thought he had some of the best stuff he's had all year," catcher Russell Martin said of Lowe. "It's not like the ball's not moving. It's sinking and they're swinging and missing. The game could have changed with that double-play ball."
Torre, who said he might have overreacted by scratching Penny with mild arm stiffness, shifted the focus away from Lowe.
"We just need to play better," he said. "We need to keep from asking our pitchers to get extra outs. For the most part, we're putting too much pressure on our starters by not limiting the other team to three outs."
Torre witnessed similar generosity from his defense in Friday night's 4-2 loss, which featured a crushing error by backup catcher Gary Bennett on a throw to first base after a third strike in the dirt. On Sunday, after taking over for Martin late, Bennett again misfired on a throw to first base after a third strike in the dirt. This time it didn't cost a run in a game that was already out of hand.
On Friday night, Torre would not link Bennett's mental block about lobbing return throws to the pitcher with his wild throw to first. But on Sunday, Torre wouldn't deny that Bennett has a problem or that the Dodgers might call in a psychologist to help work on it. Bennett is a 10-year veteran who has displayed the problem since this Spring Training, but with limited playing time, the issue had not impacted a game until this weekend.
"I feel for him. It's certainly something we have to fix," said Torre. "We're going to do whatever we can to get him through that."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.