LOS ANGELES -- Derek Lowe knew he faced a difficult challenge Sunday -- far different than anything he's had to deal with in recent Septembers.
He had to pitch in a game that didn't really matter, since the Los Angeles Dodgers have already been eliminated from postseason contention.
"Today was tough because you have to find ways to motivate yourself," Lowe said after working six strong innings to help the Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 for just their second win in nine games.
"This is new waters for me as far as playing this late in September, where it doesn't mean anything," the 32-year-old right-hander said. "It's easy to play when the games matter. This tests you. You try to find ways to excite yourself, to motivate yourself.
"Win or lose, it's not going to get us into the playoffs. But it is your job."
Last year at this time, Lowe and the Boston Red Sox were headed for the postseason, and he turned out to be a hero, earning the victory in the final game of all three series as the Red Sox won their first championship since 1918.
Lowe signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers last winter, and neither the player nor his new team have enjoyed the kind of season they wanted.
Lowe (12-14) allowed five hits and two runs before being lifted for a pinch hitter in a decisive sixth inning, when the Dodgers scored six runs after two were out to snap a 2-all tie and send the Pirates to their fifth loss in six games.
"My name may be attached, but the offense came through," Lowe said.
Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said he felt the time was right to lift Lowe.
"He was around 90 pitches, he had gotten out of the previous inning with the tying run at second," Tracy said. "You're going to hit for him there. He did a very good job, pitched six very good innings for us."
Jayson Werth hit a one-out double off Josh Fogg (6-11), and Brian Myrow, batting for Lowe, drew a two-out walk before John Grabow relieved. Willy Aybar walked to load the bases before pinch-hitter Jason Phillips singled to drive in Werth and Myrow and give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead.
Oscar Robles followed with another single to score Aybar, and Phillips came home when center fielder Tike Redman committed an error on the play. Dioner Navarro's two-run single off Ryan Vogelsong completed the rally.
Aybar hit an RBI double off Matt Capps in the seventh to make it 9-2.
One of the lone bright spots for the Pirates was Freddy Sanchez, a Southern California product who singled in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
The 27-year-old infielder, playing in his first full big league season, is batting .404 (19-for-47) during the streak.
"I've gotten a hit in each of the last two games, but it was just 1-for-5," he said. "You don't want to go 1-for-5 every game. Yesterday was OK because we got a win. Winning's what counts, man. That's all that matters."
Craig Wilson opened the second by hitting his fourth homer to put the Pirates ahead 1-0.
Robles gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead by hitting his fourth homer in the fifth - a two-out, two-run shot into the lower right-field seats that snapped rookie Ian Snell's 14-inning scoreless streak. Lowe opened the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk.
The Pirates tied it in the top of the sixth when Rob Mackowiak hit a two-out single and scored on a double by Humberto Cota. Lowe had retired the previous eight batters before Mackowiak's hit.
Snell allowed five hits and two runs in five innings. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched eight innings in his previous start to earn his first big-league victory as the Pirates beat Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros 7-0.
The Dodgers have won 17 of their last 20 games against the Pirates. ... Pittsburgh has homered in seven straight games to equal a season high. ... Lowe lowered his ERA to 3.63 -- lowest among the 22 big league pitchers with 13 or more losses. He has allowed 28 homers this season -- 11 more than his previous career high. ... Rookie Pittsburgh 1B Brad Eldred didn't play because of an injured right hamstring, although he said before the game he felt fine. "The trainer recommended he didn't play today just to be cautious," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. ... Dodgers 2B Jeff Kent, who leads the team in almost every offensive category, took the day off.