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Santana drops duel to Dodgers' Lowe

Santana drops duel to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- So much for the theory that Ervin Santana can't perform in a hostile environment.

Santana was very good on Friday night in front of a decidedly partisan Dodger Stadium crowd, but Derek Lowe was better.

The fourth installment of the Freeway Series went to the Dodgers, 2-1, sending most of the 56,000 fans -- matching the largest regular-season crowd in stadium history -- home happy.

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It was all about Lowe and his career-high 11 strikeouts, shutting down an Angels offense that had been rolling in high gear as the sport's best team (25-9) for the past five weeks.

Vladimir Guerrero's double and Casey Kotchman's RBI single in the seventh were the extent of the offense against Lowe, a sinkerball specialist who had his offspeed stuff in full command.

As good as he was, not even Lowe could do it alone. Help arrived from Luis Gonzalez, who delivered two runs with a sixth-inning single, and Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito, who finished what Lowe started with an inning each of relief.

As the big crowd roared, Garret Anderson grounded out to end it with two runners aboard, and the Dodgers savored their first win in four Interleague clashes against the club from down Interstate 5 led by one of their own, Mike Scioscia.

Once a prominent and popular member of Tommy Lasorda's cast and twice a World Series champion in Dodgers Blue, Scioscia is well versed in finding silver linings. That was not difficult in the afterglow of Santana's performance.

If this was any indication, the 24-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic has put his road struggles in the rearview mirror.

Santana began to chart a new road course with his first win away from Angel Stadium in St. Louis in his previous start. This one was just as impressive, if not more so.

"Ervin was terrific," Scioscia said of Santana, who yielded two runs in seven strong innings. "He had good command, pounded the zone with all his pitches."

Santana got past two first-inning walks -- he felt he was overthrowing -- by retiring Gonzalez and settled into a groove that carried him scoreless with Lowe into the sixth.

That's when the Dodgers handed the Angels some of their own medicine, using speed at the top of the order and a timely hit to take command.

Rafael Furcal's blazing speed enabled him to beat Orlando Cabrera's throw from shortstop for an infield hit to start the sixth. Juan Pierre followed with a line-drive single to left, and the Dodgers were in business.

"I don't know how he beat that out," Santana said of Furcal, shaking his head in wonder. "He is really fast."

Nomar Garciaparra's drive to Guerrero in right sent Furcal scurrying to third, and a 1-2 fastball rode in on Jeff Kent, plunking the veteran to load the bases.

On a 2-1 count to Gonzalez, Angels catcher Jose Molina called for a fastball away.

"The ball ran in -- a little too much movement," Santana said. Gonzalez, a highly professional hitter, did what he's done for years. He slashed the ball into center field for two runs.

Ballgame.

Some nights, the margin for error is razor-thin, and that's what happened here.

The Angels didn't go down easily. Two-out infield singles by Gary Matthews Jr. and Kotchman brought Anderson -- the franchise leader in RBIs with 1,143 -- to the plate in the ninth with a last-gasp opportunity. But a ground ball to second base brought Saito his 19th save.

Falling to 5-7, Santana yielded five hits and two walks, striking out four.

"Everything was working," Santana said. "I felt good. I wasn't throwing 95, but I was putting my fastball in good locations. I've been working hard on my slider, and I was throwing it for strikes."

Matt Kemp's two-out single to left-center in the fifth inning was the first hit allowed by Santana.

Lowe gave up a first-inning single to Cabrera, then showed what was in store for the Angels by striking out Guerrero and Matthews.

"He was on his game tonight," said Matthews, three times a strikeout victim. "He had good stuff and he located it well.

"We just couldn't build any momentum. You'd like to get some guys on and create some pressure."

That's the Angels' MO, but Lowe erased it. It wasn't until the sixth that the Angels got a runner into scoring position. Chone Figgins, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games, singled with two outs and stole second, but Cabrera struck out.

Soon it was the Dodgers' roadrunners -- Furcal and Pierre -- burning up the basepaths and forging a 2-0 lead.

Guerrero's twisting double to right opened the seventh, and he scored on Kotchman's one-out single to center. That was the lone blemish against Lowe, who walked only one and yielded four hits in a dominant performance.

"Sometimes you have to tip your hat," Santana said. "I pitched great ... but so did he."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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