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LOWE, DODGERS HITTING NEW HIGH DODGERS 5, WASH. 0.

Byline: TONY JACKSON

Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If this wasn't Derek Lowe at his finest -- and according to the Dodgers right-hander himself, it wasn't -- then pity the already-pitiful Washington Nationals if they ever do run into the vintage version.

On a Wednesday night when he later claimed he didn't have his best stuff, when his pitch count became so bloated so early that he had lost any chance at a complete game by the third inning, when he couldn't throw his breaking ball for strikes and couldn't find anything remotely resembling a groove, all Lowe managed to extract from himself was this: Seven shutout innings. Eleven groundball outs. And, on behalf of himself and the rest of the Dodgers, a crisp, 5-0 victory over the Nationals in front of 22,360 at the gigantic, unflushed toilet known as RFK Stadium.

With that, the Dodgers assured themselves of winning a series for the first and last time in the three-year lifespan of this ballpark, where they will make their final appearance tonight. In winning the first two games, the Dodgers have outscored the Nationals by a laughable 15-0, marking the first time Los Angeles has turned in consecutive shutout wins since the same two dates in 2004.

It also marked the third consecutive game in which a Dodgers starting pitcher didn't allow a run. In their six total starts during the past two times through the rotation, the trio of Lowe, Randy Wolf and Brad Penny has gone a collective 4-0 while allowing a grand total of three runs in 391/3 innings.

All numbers Lowe should have carefully perused before going into a postgame self-flagellation act that seemed a bit off-target.

"The final line score looked good, but it didn't tell the whole story," Lowe said. "I was (behind in counts) 3-1, 2-0, and you're not going to win many games like that. At the start of the game, I think the fact it stayed nothing-nothing for so long made me concentrate even harder. But I know that early in the game, the stuff just wasn't there. The third, fourth and fifth innings, I don't think I threw three breaking balls for strikes.

"But you just have to trust your stuff and feel like it's going to come around."

By the time the Dodgers staked him to a 2-0 lead in the fifth -- the second run scoring on an RBI single by Rafael Furcal to run his hitting streak to a career best-tying 15 games -- it had come around for Lowe. By the time they doubled that lead on Russell Martin's two-run homer to dead center in the sixth, Lowe was on auto pilot.

In fact, after a botched caught-stealing that would have ended the third if Furcal hadn't dropped Martin's perfectly placed throw, Lowe simply bore down and got out of the inning anyway, freezing Cristian Guzman on a called third strike. From there, Lowe retired 13 of his final 15 batters while allowing just one hit, a measly infield single by Guzman in the fifth that could have been ruled an error on rookie third baseman Tony Abreu.

So as bad as Lowe seemed to think he was, he was that good to everyone else.

He had a 2.16 ERA in sixMay starts, getting the win in four of them. He also had two complete games, but lost both of those.

"It's like a hitter when he hits the ball square five times and goes 0 for 5," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "After pitching that well, you want to come up with the win. So it was good to see Derek get that one."

The Dodgers have now allowed one run in their past three games, a span of 29innings. They climbed 10games above .500 for the first time this season but still were not able to stretch their half-game lead over Arizona or their full-game lead over San Diego in the National League West.

They made the score 5-0 in the seventh, when Furcal doubled home Lowe (5-5), who also happened to reach base in all three of his plate appearances (single, two walks).

The latest victim in Washington's little-rotation-that-could was lefty Mike Bacsik, who dominated the Dodgers for fourinnings before Luis Gonzalez's leadoff double in the fifth seemed to break him. Bacsik (1-1), one of four Nationals pitchers who are starting only because of injuries to others, gave up two earned runs in six innings.

tony.jackson@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3675

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

The Dodgers' Rafael Furcal avoids Washington's Cristian Guzman while turning a double play.

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Box:

DODGERS vs. WASHINGTON

- Tony Jackson
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 31, 2007
Words:774
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