Lowe excelled in his fourth straight start Saturday, pitching the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the San Diego Padres in a game Los Angeles had to have to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.
"This is my 31st start -- I finally got to double-digit wins," said Lowe, a postseason hero for the Boston Red Sox last October. "I love this time of year. I love the fact that every game matters."
Oscar Robles hit an RBI double for the key blow in a three-run first inning, and Willy Aybar had two hits and scored a run in his first major-league start as the Dodgers moved within seven games of the NL West-leading Padres with 21 remaining.
"There's no question that we have to go on a winning streak like we did at the beginning of the year," Lowe said, referring to the Dodgers' 12-2 start.
Even that might not be enough. If the Padres go 10-11 to finish the season at .500, the Dodgers would have to go 17-4 just to earn a first-place tie.
Duaner Sanchez relieved with runners at first and third, then loaded the bases with a walk to Brian Giles. But Sanchez retired Joe Randa on a flyout before working a perfect ninth for his sixth save in 10 chances.
"We had our guys up there in the eighth, and you can't ask for more than that," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "What you're hoping for there is to get the tying or winning run on, and we did both, but they got a very big out. Randa took a pretty good swing, but just got it up in the air."
The win was just Lowe's second since Aug. 5, but the 32-year-old right-hander has been outstanding in his last four starts, giving up three earned runs and 19 hits in 31 2/3 innings, dropping his ERA to 3.67. He hadn't allowed an earned run in 23 straight innings before Fick's hit drove in Roberts.
"Right now, my confidence is as high as it's ever been," he said.
Lowe, who threw 122 pitches, is 2-1 with a no-decision in four appearances against the Padres this season, giving up three earned runs in 30 2/3 innings.
"Today was a do-or-die for them, and he pitched a great game," said Roberts, another member of the championship team in Boston. "It's obvious that he is a big-game pitcher. So when you spot him some runs early and he has that cushion, then it makes him that much better."
Aybar, a 22-year-old switch hitter, singled in the third and doubled in the fifth for his first big-league hits. He also walked and scored in the first.
Clay Hensley (0-1), a 26-year-old right-hander making his first big league start after 16 relief appearances, fell behind 2-0 before recording an out. Aybar walked, took second on a single by Hee-Seop Choi and scored on Robles' double. Choi also scored on the play when second baseman Loretta mishandled the relay from right fielder Giles.
The Dodgers made it 3-0 with two outs in the opening inning when Robles scored on a passed ball by Miguel Olivo.
Hensley was lifted for a pinch hitter after allowing four hits and three runs, one earned, in five innings. He retired 15 of his last 18 batters.
San Diego got leadoff singles in the second, third and fourth innings, but Lowe worked out of trouble each time thanks in part to double-play grounders in the second and fourth. The Padres threatened in the seventh, putting runners at first and third with two outs before Khalil Greene grounded into a forceout.
- Padres RHP Chan Ho Park will pitch against RHP Brad Penny in Sunday's series finale. Park, who played for the Dodgers from 1994-2001, will be facing his former team for the first time.
- It appears more unlikely every day that Dodgers OF J.D. Drew will play again this season. "It just goes downhill when I swing the bat a few days in a row," he said of his left wrist, broken July 3 when hit by a pitch from Arizona's Brad Halsey. Drew signed a $55 million, five-year contract with the Dodgers last winter.
- Padres OF Ryan Klesko missed his fourth start due to shoulder and neck problems.
- Aybar, who played third base, was one of four Los Angeles rookies to start the game, joining Robles, C Dioner Navarro and OF Jason Repko.