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A Dodgers wasteland

They strand 13 runners in a 2-0 loss to Arizona. It's another rough game at plate for Garciaparra and another tough-luck loss for Lowe.

June 28, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks moved into sole possession of first place in the National League West on Sunday and retained that position until Tuesday night, the latest the team had held that distinction in a season since the last day of the 2002 regular season.

If there was any doubt how much their series against the Dodgers meant to the suffering franchise, it was erased in the eighth inning Wednesday night at Chase Field.

That's when Arizona Manager Bob Melvin rushed closer Jose Valverde into the game after the Dodgers had loaded the bases, and Valverde retired Rafael Furcal on a grounder to second baseman Orlando Hudson to help the Diamondbacks hold on for a 2-0 victory.

Valverde also pitched a perfect ninth to notch his 25th save and propel the Diamondbacks back into a first-place tie in the division alongside San Diego, half a game ahead of the third-place Dodgers. It was the first four-out save of the season for Valverde, underscoring Arizona's desire to remain near the top of the NL West as the All-Star break approaches.

The Dodgers suffered through a week's worth of offensive aggravation in one night, stranding 13 runners and one in scoring position in each of the first four innings against Arizona starter Brandon Webb (8-5). They had two runners on with none out in the seventh and didn't score, and then loaded the bases in the eighth but couldn't break through against three relievers.

"We definitely had our chances," left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. "I think everyone in our lineup came up with runners in scoring position and we couldn't capitalize. I think that's what made our team a little more frustrated in losing this game."

Gonzalez led off the eighth with his third hit, a single to left off Randy Choate, and went to second on James Loney's single to right-center. Melvin then turned to reliever Juan Cruz, who struck out Nomar Garciaparra to extend the slumping third baseman's hitless streak to 15 at-bats.

Cruz walked Andre Ethier on four pitches to load the bases and then reached a 2-and-0 count on pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz before recovering to strike him out chasing a 99-mph fastball. Valverde then got the final out to help the Diamondbacks end the threat and eventually win for the first time in five games against the Dodgers this season at Chase Field.

"We couldn't get the big hit when we needed to, so there you go," said Dodgers Manager Grady Little, whose team went hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "How many times have we seen Russell Martin strike out three times with guys all over the place on the bases?"

Arizona handed Dodgers starter Derek Lowe (8-7) another hard-luck loss. The Diamondbacks scored the only run they would need without a hit in the first inning.

Stephen Drew and Hudson drew one-out walks and moved up a base when first baseman Loney fielded Tony Clark's grounder and bounced his throw to shortstop Furcal for an error. Chad Tracy's sacrifice fly gave Arizona a 1-0 lead.

"I was lucky to get out of that inning," said Lowe, who has received only eight runs of support in his seven losses. "I made a lot of mistakes."

Eric Byrnes gave Arizona a 2-0 lead in the seventh with his two-out, run-scoring single through the left side of the infield.

Garciaparra, dropped to seventh in the batting order for the first time this season, has not had a hit since June 21 against Toronto.

"He could be trying a little too hard," said Little, who planned to give Garciaparra today off and insert Tony Abreu in his place.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Old news

When Arizona's Randy Johnson takes the mound against the Dodgers today, he'll be one of eight pitchers older than 40 scheduled to start in the major leagues over the last two days. How the others fared Wednesday (Detroit's Kenny Rogers' game against Texas was postponed because of rain):

Roger Clemens

Age: 44

Decision: L

Result: Yankees lost to Baltimore, 4-0

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Tom Glavine

Age: 41

Decision: W

Result: N.Y. Mets d. St. Louis, 2-0

--

Greg Maddux

Age: 41

Decision: W

Result: San Diego d. San Francisco, 4-2

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Jamie Moyer

Age: 44

Decision: ND

Result: Philadelphia lost to Cincinnati, 9-6

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John Smoltz

Age: 40

Decision: W

Result: Atlanta d. Washington, 13-0

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Woody Williams

Age: 40

Decision: ND

Result: Houston lost to Milwaukee, 6-3

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