LOS ANGELES -- Joe Torre witnessed a lot during memorable stretch runs managing the New York Yankees. The Dodgers are providing him with some fresh memories.
"It was a heckuva night," a smiling Torre said after Los Angeles began its crucial three-game set against Arizona with a 7-0 romp on Friday night. "Our guys are playing with intensity. It's a lot of fun right now."A week ago, the Dodgers had lost eight in a row and were 4 1/2 games back of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. Suddenly, they've surged and Arizona has sagged.Andre Ethier went 5-for-5 and drove in a career-high five runs, and Derek Lowe held Arizona to two hits over eight innings. The Dodgers earned their sixth straight victory and sent the Diamondbacks to their eighth loss in their last 11.
The Fifth Element
Andre Ethier's 5-for-5 night helped the Dodgers thump the D-backs Friday. Ethier became one of five players in the Dodgers' L.A. era to finish with five hits and five RBI in a game.
5-plus hits & RBI by Dodgers, Los Angeles Era (Since 1958)
*Four HR in game
"He [Ethier] was locked in," Torre said. "So was Derek Lowe."For the second time in three games, Ethier came close to hitting for the cycle. After he homered, singled and hit a ground-rule double in his first three at-bats, he doubled to left-center in the sixth. When center fielder Chris Young bobbled the ball, Ethier started for third, changed his mind, and was tagged out in a rundown.Since Young probably would have drawn an error, Ethier's hit likely wouldn't have provided the triple he needed for the cycle."I was 99 percent tempted [to try for third], but I heard that old thing that's been instilled in you since you were a little kid: `Never make the last out at third,' " Ethier said. "And that kind of held me up. But we went out and did what we set out to accomplish, which was to win that game against one of their top starters."Ethier hit his 20th homer off Dan Haren (14-8) in the first inning, a two-run single in the second and RBI doubles in the fourth and sixth as Los Angeles opened a 6-0 lead. His fifth hit was an eighth-inning single.He homered, singled and tripled in Los Angeles' 8-4 win over San Diego on Tuesday.Lowe (12-11) kept hitters off balance with a wicked sinker. He struck out four and walked two, surrendering singles to Conor Jackson in the fourth and Chris Young in the fifth."The lead definitely helped," Lowe said. "My sinkerball wasn't working that well the last game [also against Arizona], so I used the curve. But this time it was working, and I think they were looking for the breaking ball because of the last game."Lowe added, "People have wondered how we're going to beat Haren and [Brandon] Webb. We're pretty good over here, too."Chan Ho Park pitched the ninth to complete the two-hitter, the Dodgers' 11th shutout this season. Arizona has been blanked six times.While Lowe was dominating the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers jumped on the struggling Haren, who gave up five runs and six hits in four innings. He fell to 3-3 in his last seven starts.Haren was coming off a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers last Saturday in Arizona, when he gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings. In the right-hander's previous Dodger Stadium appearance, on April 23, he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing six runs in an 8-3 loss to Lowe.Lowe improved to 4-1 with a 1.51 ERA in his last six starts."Everything was at the knees and down, both sides of the plate, sinker on the plate and away from left-handers," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "When you see him get a lot of groundballs early on in some early count swings, it means he's on his game."They outhit us, they outpitched us and played better than we did in the field. So we're going to have to refocus and come out tomorrow and take it to them early on."Webb will try for his 20th win for the third time when he faces Los Angeles' Chad Billingsley in the second game of the series, the final set between the teams this year unless they are tied at the end of the regular season and have a one-game playoff.
Torre believes LHP Clayton Kershaw matches up well against the Diamondbacks, so he will start Sunday's series finale instead of RHP Greg Maddux, who was scheduled to face LHP Randy Johnson. Maddux and Johnson, who have a combined 648 wins and nine Cy Young Awards, have faced each other only once in the regular season. Johnson allowed a run and four hits over eight innings with 10 strikeouts in Houston's 4-2 victory at Atlanta in that Sept. 2, 1998, game. Maddux gave up four runs, 10 hits and three homers over seven innings. Johnson was disappointed they won't get to tangle again this weekend. "To me, he's the greatest pitcher of my generation," said Johnson, 60 wins behind Maddux's 354. "What he's done is staggering. I'm just trying to get to 300 wins, and he's got 350. There are still things in this game that blow me away, and that is definitely one of them."