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Dodgers Let Big One Get Away

A 7-0 lead after three innings with Lowe on the mound turns into a 9-8 loss in 11 innings to the Cubs, who commit six errors.

September 13, 2006|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — The National League's best pitcher over the last six weeks was sailing along with a seven-run lead against a bumbling opponent in a park where he'd tossed a one-hitter a year ago.

If he had a spyglass, Derek Lowe might have seen a Cy Young Award on the horizon.

Then a monsoon struck -- seven Chicago Cubs hits in the fifth inning and Lowe ducking into the dugout with the lead whittled to two. The bullpen and a gun-shy J.D. Drew gave away the rest, sending the game into extra innings.

From there a star emerged, a former Dodgers favorite son and the man who brought them Greg Maddux. But this time Cesar Izturis singled to drive in the winning run for the opposition, leaving the dumbstruck Dodgers unable to capitalize on six Cubs errors in an ugly 9-8 loss in 11 innings Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

"The game was decided in the fifth inning, not the 10th or 11th," Manager Grady Little said.

Izturis, traded by the Dodgers for Maddux on July 31 after four years as their shortstop and three rocky months recovering from a severe injury and filling in at third base, might beg to differ.

"It's just nice to have a W like that," he said.

And stunning to absorb an L like that. Lowe was speechless for a moment before trying to put it into perspective.

"This game is about momentum, and they clearly had it after the fifth inning," he said. "Hitters tell you how good your stuff is. I'm clearly disappointed in the way I squandered a 7-0 lead with 19 games to go."

The biggest lead the Dodgers had blown was six at Arizona in May, and it came largely in the same fashion. Odalis Perez took a 6-0 lead into the fifth inning and gave up seven runs, prompting Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to storm into General Manager Ned Colletti's luxury booth and engage in an arm-waving display of Perez-bashing. The enigmatic left-hander was traded the moment another team would take him.

Lowe, presumably, deserves considerably more slack. And he was hardly alone in not performing at his peak. A kindergartner's crayon scribbling is closer to fine art than this game was to top-flight big league baseball.

There were eight errors. The Dodgers had a 7-0 lead after three innings. Fifteen pitchers were used. The last was Dodgers left-hander Tim Hamulack, who began walking off the field one batter too soon, returned to the mound and served up the slider Izturis banged up the middle.

Hamulack believed he'd struck out Aramis Ramirez with two out and a runner on first. So did catcher Russell Martin, who also started toward the dugout. But the pitch was a ball and Ramirez trotted to first with a walk.

Hamulack was the first Dodger to leave the clubhouse, stopping only to say he didn't think the call was right. The Dodgers have whined about umpires more than once lately, not necessarily wise during a pennant race.

"Obviously we had a lot of opportunities and we let it slip through our fingers," said Brett Tomko, who gave up two runs in the seventh inning, enabling the Cubs to tie the score, 7-7.

An inning later the Cubs went ahead because Drew pulled up on a fly ball near the wall for a three-base error. The Dodgers extended the game by benefiting from two more Cubs errors -- including one by Izturis -- for a run in the ninth.

Early on, the Cubs did their best to shove the game into the Dodgers' pockets. Second baseman Freddie Bynum made three errors in the first two innings and right fielder Jacque Jones made an error in the third.

Yet the mistakes had only begun. The only consolation is that the Dodgers held their 1 1/2 -game lead in the division over the San Diego Padres, who lost to the Cincinnati Reds.

"Baseball is crazy sometimes," shortstop Rafael Furcal said. "We aren't thinking about San Diego. It's hard to enough to think about ourselves and get the job done."

steve.henson@latimes.com

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