Lowe was so dominating for six innings that his manager began thinking he might throw a second career no-hitter, only to nearly squander a five-run lead before the Dodgers held on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 on Monday night.
Jeff Kent, in a 1-for-26 slump, doubled in a run, Rafael Furcal hit a two-run double and Russell Martin hit his fourth homer in his last five starts as the Dodgers took three of four in Pittsburgh. They have won nine of 12 going into a three-game series against NL West rival San Diego on Tuesday night.
"It was a shock all of a sudden to go from one extreme to the next so quick, but we won," Lowe said. "That's what counts."
Lowe (6-5) didn't allow a hit until Freddy Sanchez singled up the middle with no out in the seventh. Long before then, Dodgers manager Grady Little was comparing his effort to the no-hitter Lowe threw for the Little-managed Boston Red Sox against Tampa Bay in 2002.
"I thought that was the best stuff I'd seen him have since he threw one for me in Boston," Little said. "It lasted a pretty long while there. He had a pretty good run. He's got the stuff (for a no-hitter). When you saw some of the plays made behind him, you kind of started getting that feeling."
Lowe wasn't thinking nearly that far ahead, saying afterward, "You don't worry about no-hitters until the ninth inning. It was a long way away."
Especially when Lowe's hard sinker deserted him in the seventh. He walked Chris Duffy ahead of Sanchez's single, a run-scoring force play grounder and Xavier Nady's two-run homer. Until then, Lowe had not allowed a fly ball since Jose Bautista flied out to right to start the game.
"He started getting a little tired, wasn't throwing as many strikes and he started getting the ball up a little bit," Bautista said. "He made some mistakes and we made him pay."
Just not enough to win the game, something the Pirates appeared to have little chance of doing when they fell behind 5-0 in the seventh on Brady Clark's RBI infield single and Furcal's two-run double. Still, the Pirates almost came back to win a game that appeared lost, a day after they lost a game that seemed won by blowing a late four-run lead in a 5-4 loss.
The Dodgers got a run back when Martin hit his seventh homer of the season, a solo drive in the eighth off Josh Sharpless that made it 6-3. Bautista came back with his fourth of the season, a drive to left on a 3-1 pitch with two outs in the eighth that forced Lowe from the game and helped create a tentative debut for temporary Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton.
Broxton, pitching the ninth with closer Takashi Saito (hamstring) out for at least a few days, gave up a single to Sanchez to start the inning. Sanchez reached second on Bay's groundout, then scored on Adam LaRoche's double to make it 6-5.
"Russell came out and said I was making great pitches and to just keep doing what I was doing," Broxton said. "I had to settle down, start getting ahead of guys and start trusting my stuff."
"To battle like we did -- we could have put our tail between our legs and just gotten out of here -- is a credit to our guys," Duffy said. "We put together some good at-bats and we got to him (Lowe). We just fell a little short."
The Pirates knew it would be tough going against Lowe, who is 5-0 against them in his career and 4-0 at PNC Park. The right-hander also was coming off a dominating effort against the Nationals by allowing only three hits over seven shutout innings on Thursday.
Keeping the ball down in the strike zone, Lowe got his final 18 outs on ground balls or strikeouts, and gave up more runs (four) than he did hits (three), striking out six and walking one. He had a perfect game until rookie third baseman Tony Abreu threw wildly on Jason Bay's grounder leading off the fifth. Abreu had another throwing error in the same inning, on Nady's grounder,
The Dodgers, going 5-2 on an East Coast swing to Washington and Pittsburgh, scored in the first against Paul Maholm (2-8) on Juan Pierre's perfectly placed bunt single between the pitcher's mound and the first base bag and Kent's two-out double.
- There has been only one no-hitter by an opposing pitcher in Pittsburgh during the Pirates' 121 seasons, by Bob Gibson in 1971. There never was a no-hitter pitched at spacious Forbes Field (1909-1970).
- The Pirates went 2-5 on a seven-game homestand and are 11-19 at PNC Park.
- Lowe had allowed only six earned runs combined in his previous five victories.
- The Dodgers are 14-5 in games started by opposing left-handers.