Dodgers 2, Angels 1

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Derek Lowe figured if he continued pitching the way he has in recent weeks, the breaks would even out.

Lowe allowed one run over seven innings and had a career-high 11 strikeouts, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Friday night in the opener of Freeway Series II. The only other time the right-hander recorded double digits in strikeouts was June 16, 2002, when he fanned 10 batters in Atlanta while pitching for Boston.

“I think my experience pitching in the American League for so many years definitely helps in Interleague play,” said Lowe, who has allowed fewer than two runs in four of his last five starts. “You’ve got to go right at American League teams because these guys are potent hitters—especially when they get into pitcher’s counts. If you look at all the strikeouts, none were looking. So it wasn’t like I had strikeout stuff. It happens by accident.”

Luis Gonzalez singled home both runs for the Dodgers, who won their fourth straight following a sweep of the New York Mets and took over first place in the NL West from San Diego. When the Angels hosted the Dodgers in May, the Halos outscored their freeway rivals 19-4 in a three-game sweep.

Lowe (7-6) allowed four hits and walked one. The right-hander went the distance last Saturday in a 1-0 loss to Toronto at Dodger Stadium, one of his three complete-game defeats this season—including a 4-1 loss in Anaheim.

“He had good stuff and he was tough all night,” said Angels cleanup hitter Gary Matthews Jr., who struck out all three times he faced Lowe. “He was on his game. He located well, mixed it up and had good movement. It was one of those tough nights. You hate to waste a good start from Ervin Santana. When he has a night like that, you want to try and take advantage of it.”

Santana (5-7) allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings, striking out four and walking two.

Takashi Saito pitched the ninth for his 19th save in 20 attempts, retiring Garret Anderson on a grounder to second after giving up two-out infield singles to Matthews and Casey Kotchman.

In their first game since firing hitting coach Eddie Murray and replacing him with Bill Mueller, the Dodgers didn’t get their first hit until Matt Kemp lined a single to left-center with two out in the fifth.

“I was kind of getting worried for Mueller, because their guy had a no-hitter going into the fifth,” Gonzalez said with a grin. “Unfortunately, somebody lost their job, but we don’t really worry about who the coaches are. You have to go out there and try to produce every day.”

Gonzalez’s pivotal hit came two batters after Russell Martin hit a hard grounder off Santana’s shin and was thrown out by the pitcher. Santana was checked out by trainer Rick Smith and granted a few warmup tosses before continuing.

The Angels also managed only one hit through the first five innings, a single by Orlando Cabrera in the first. Chone Figgins singled in the Angels’ sixth to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games, then stole second on a pitchout. But Lowe stranded him there when he struck out Cabrera on a sinker that broke low and inside. It was his biggest out of the night, because Vladimir Guerrero was on deck.

“When you’ve got a guy like Cabrera, who is an extremely tough hitter, I wasn’t going to give into him at any point,” Lowe said of his former Red Sox teammate. “Obviously, Vladdy has tremendous power, but sometimes you can take advantage of his aggressiveness. So we tried to pitch Cabrera tough, threw a lot of breaking balls and took a chance with a 3-2 sinker inside, hoping he would swing. And it worked out.”

The Dodgers finally broke through in the bottom half on a two-run single by Gonzalez, after Santana hit Jeff Kent with a 1-2 pitch with one out to load the bases.

Guerrero led off the sixth with a double into the right field corner that hit off Kemp’s outstretched glove after a long run. Matthews struck out, but Casey Kotchman followed with an RBI single.


Several players from the Anaheim Ducks will be at Angel Stadium with the Stanley Cup on Tuesday night for a pre-game ceremony honoring the newly crowned NHL champions. … The Dodgers and Angels’ pitching staffs both lead their respective leagues in strikeouts.

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