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DODGERS NAILED BY CARPENTER CARDINALS' ALL-STAR THROWS A TWO-HITTER ST. LOUIS 5, DODGERS 0.

Byline: TONY JACKSON Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- In an effort to find some humor in the Dodgers' latest setback, a 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd of 45,704 on Friday night at Busch Stadium, manager Grady Little offered up all the praise he could muster for his struggling club.

``I thought we ran the bases well,'' Little said, stonefaced. ``We didn't make any mistakes on the basepaths.''

After Cardinals right-hander and reigning National League Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter took the Dodgers hitters to school for nine innings, Little's sarcasm was impossible to miss. After all, running the bases was something only four Dodgers players got do all night, and one of those happened only because he grounded into a force play.

Two games into the second half, the Dodgers appear to be in shambles. And that has as much to do with them as it does with Carpenter, who somehow got through his 10th career complete-game shutout on 101 pitches against a Dodgers lineup that couldn't wait to put the ball in play against him despite the fact he might have the league's best defense.

Meanwhile, Dodgers right- hander and erstwhile staff ace Derek Lowe struggled for the fourth consecutive outing, this time giving up three consecutive hits to begin the game and allowing the only run the Cardinals would really need on an RBI single by Albert Pujols before recording the first out.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have scored a grand total of two runs in their first 23 innings since the All-Star break, both of them coming on one very long swing of Nomar Garciaparra's sizzling bat in the opener of this four-game series Thursday night.

Meanwhile, there doesn't appear to be any indication that help is on the way, at least not anytime soon.

Injured right-hander Brett Tomko did rejoin the team and said his strained left oblique has healed sufficiently that it allowed him to throw a handful of pitches off a mound six days ago. But he said he will need a minor-league rehabilitation assignment before he returns from the disabled list.

But the biggest concern right now is the once-reliable Lowe, whose sinkerball has been suddenly ineffective and whose fortunes have been suddenly reversed.

Over his past four starts, Lowe is 1-3 with a 9.43 ERA (22 earned runs, 21 innings).

``I think it's because (against) all these teams, I'm seeing six or seven lefties in the lineup, and I have maybe gotten away from my strength by throwing them more breaking balls,'' Lowe said. ``I might be digging myself a hole by giving those hitters too much credit. Most of (the Cardinals') key hits were on breaking balls.''

Lowe (7-6) appears to be throwing those pitches, specifically cutters, so often that he has lost the feel for his vaunted sinkerball, which he once used to such great effectiveness against right- handed batters. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said the fact Lowe isn't using that sinker as often has caused him to be less consistent mechanically, a major contributing factor to Lowe's current struggles.

``Facing so many lefties and using that cutter so much, maybe his release point isn't as good (on the sinker),'' Honeycutt said.

A near-perfect Lowe might not have been good enough for the Dodgers (46-44), limited to two hits by Carpenter (8-4) and who never got a runner past first base.

Garciaparra went 0 for 3, ending his hitting streak at 22 games.

The Cardinals had only two left-handed hitters in their lineup, plus the switch-hitting Aaron Miles. Righty David Eckstein went 4 for 5, with all four hits leading off innings. After the second one in the third inning, lefty-hitting Chris Duncan hit Lowe's first pitch -- a hanging breaking ball -- onto the grass embankment in straightaway center, making it 3-0.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Dodgers starter Derek Lowe struggled again in taking another loss Friday. Over his past four starts, Lowe is 1-3 with a 9.43 ERA.

James A. Finley/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 15, 2006
Words:673
Previous Article:L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
Next Article:DO YOU GIVE A HOOT?


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