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GOOD, BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH DODGERS' BATS COME ALIVE, BUT L.A. STILL LOSES SAN DIEGO 7, DODGERS 6.

Byline: TONY JACKSON Staff Writer

There was finally some energy at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. There was finally a reason to cheer the home team, finally some semblance of offense and finally a reason to stay until the end, even if not that many actually did.

But in the end, there was only another mind-numbing loss, this time 7-6 in 11 innings to the San Diego Padres in front of 38,050.

The Dodgers mounted a stirring, eighth-inning rally to come back from three runs down. They got four hits in five at-bats from rookie sensation Andre Ethier, two of them home runs. They even got a decent performance from Derek Lowe, the erstwhile staff ace who had struggled so mightily over the past month.

All that was rendered moot, however, shortly after Josh Barfield hit a pop fly off Giovanni Carrara with two outs in the top of the 11th inning. The ball, which could have been caught by three different Dodgers, ultimately fell between all of them, and the speedy Barfield slid into second base with a gift double. Josh Bard then drove him home with a single up the middle, making a hard-luck loser of Carrara and dropping the Dodgers to 0-6 in extra innings.

The Dodgers now have lost 11 of 12 since the All-Star break, scoring a total of 23 runs in the process.

Typically, the Dodgers went quietly in the bottom of the 11th inning against Trevor Hoffman.

``They kept battling out there,'' Dodgers manager Grady Little said. ``That was a good performance by Derek Lowe. He pitched well enough to win a game. He just ran out of gas there in the seventh inning.''

That the Dodgers broke out for six runs -- double what they had scored in any of their 10 previous defeats -- was encouraging, but a tad misleading. Most of their offense still came from the bats of hot-hitting rookies Ethier and Russell Martin, while the veterans largely continued to struggle and failed to produce in key situations.

But on the positive side, Ethier continued to make his case for the National League's Rookie of the Year award, tying the score 1-1 with a solo homer to lead off the second and giving the Dodgers a short-lived, 3-2 lead with a two-run blast in the third.

Meanwhile, Lowe rebounded from his monthlong slump -- the product of losing the release point on his vaunted sinkerball by not throwing it enough -- and gave the Dodgers 6 2/3 solid innings, in which he scattered seven hits.

Lowe left with the score tied 3-3. Jonathan Broxton, who relieved him, immediately gave up a three-run homer to Mike Cameron, putting the Dodgers in a 6-3 hole and begging the question of whether Little should have stuck longer with Lowe.

But Little insisted Lowe, who hadn't pitched into the seventh inning since turning in his only complete game of the season on June 22 against Seattle, was done at that point.

``I could tell by his body language,'' Little said.

The Dodgers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth, all off Padres reliever Scott Linebrink, who began the inning by walking Rafael Furcal. Two outs later, with Furcal having been forced at second and J.D. Drew now on first, Ethier poked a single to left-center, sending Drew to third.

Russell Martin followed with a long fly ball to right that Terrmel Sledge appeared to have a bead on as he ran it down at the track. But the ball ticked off Sledge's glove, allowing both runners to score easily and Martin to pull into second with a double.

Veteran Ricky Ledee then came up to pinch-hit for Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel and promptly tied the score, dropping a bloop single just in front of a hard-charging Dave Roberts in left to bring home Martin.

Kenny Lofton, running for Ledee, was thrown out trying to steal second to end the inning.

Furcal led off the third inning with a double, but was thrown out trying to steal third as Drew struck out. Furcal then tripled with one out in the fifth, but Drew struck out again, dropping his average with runners in scoring position to .258. Nomar Garciaparra then flied to center, stranding Furcal on third.

The Dodgers (47-53), who now have lost a season-high six consecutive games, fell into last place alone in the NL West, 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Padres.

tony.jackson@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3675

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) The Dodgers' Andre Ethier hits a two-run homer in the third inning of Monday night's game.

(2) Derek Lowe allowed five runs -- three earned -- on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings on Monday.

(3) Dodgers' Rafael Furcal, right, tags out Padres' Brian Giles after Giles overran second base.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

Box:

DODGERS vs. SAN DIEGO

- Tony Jackson
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 25, 2006
Words:817
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