The Dodgers' Derek Lowe pitches in the first inning Wednesday against… (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles…)
That Andruw Jones would get a standing ovation for driving in a run and another for breaking up a double play with a hard slide into second could be the most visible and audible signs of what a trying season this has been for him.
But Jones didn't care. He waited for more than three months for this, saying of seeing the fans at Dodger Stadium rise twice to their feet in response to what he did in the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 2-1 victory Wednesday over the Atlanta Braves, "It felt good."
The sub-.200 hitting blockbuster free agent acquisition's single that scored Angel Berroa and doubled the Dodgers' lead to 2-0 stood as the difference-making hit in a victory that drew the sub-.500 club into a tie for first place in the National League West with Arizona for the second time in three days. The win was the Dodgers' second in the three-game set over the Braves, marking their fourth consecutive series victory.
For Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, Jones' RBI single let him pick up a win on a night he was once again denied much run support. The pitcher who has had a total of eight runs scored on his behalf in his eight losses threw as if he knew he had to be perfect, or at least close to it.
Lowe (7-8) took a perfect game into the seventh inning and limited the Braves to one run and two hits in 7 2/3 innings. He didn't let anyone reach base until he gave up a single to Gregor Blanco to start the seventh.
After Hiroki Kuroda had a perfect game through seven innings on Monday, Chad Billingsley took a no-hitter into the fifth on Tuesday, and Lowe did what he did on Wednesday, catcher Russell Martin said, "You can tell they're getting confidence out there. They're not pitching away from contact. They're throwing strikes early."
Unlike Kuroda two days earlier, Lowe claimed the thought of perfection didn't cross his mind. Lowe pitched a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox in 2002.
"The closeness of the game didn't allow me to think that far ahead," Lowe said. "You start doing that and you can get into trouble."
That nearly happened in the seventh inning anyway, as Blanco reached third on a slow roller down the third-base line by Yunel Escobar. But Lowe left Blanco stranded at third, forcing Chipper Jones to hit a comebacker and getting Mark Teixeira to fly out to left.
Lowe gave up his only run on a home run by Jeff Francoeur in the eighth.
But the Dodgers were still ahead, courtesy of Matt Kemp's solo home run in the sixth and Jones' RBI single in the seventh.
The Dodgers started the seventh with a single by the recently activated Nomar Garciaparra, who was in the lineup for the third day in a row. Berroa pinch-ran for Garciaparra and moved to second on a groundout by James Loney.
Braves starter Tim Hudson (9-7), who was perfect for the first four innings, opted to intentionally walk Martin to pitch to Jones, his friend and former teammate. Jones made him pay with a single up the middle.
Jones said that he opened up his stance at the start of this homestand so that he could hit the ball in that direction more often.
"I think the big misconception about him is that he doesn't care," Lowe said of the constantly smiling $36-million center fielder. "He works really hard. He's going to turn it around. He has too much talent."
Of how Jones took out second baseman Kelly Johnson with a slide to prevent a double play on a grounder by Blake DeWitt, Manager Joe Torre said, "There's a lot of that in him."