Shortly after Joe Torre was telling the media it was far too early for the Dodgers to worry about how far they trailed the Diamondbacks, a hastily called pregame team meeting gave the impression that somebody was worried about something.
As if sworn to secrecy, nobody would talk about who spoke in the 30-minute meeting, what was said or whether it in any way contributed to an impressive 8-3 Dodgers win Wednesday night over the first-place Diamondbacks, who came into the game with a seven-game lead over the Dodgers.
But afterward, Torre said his club came out with a different personality than it showed on its recent 1-4 road trip.
"We had a lot more energy tonight," said Torre. "Now we need to string a lot of them together. We need to have the same personality more often than we've been showing. Sometimes we fall behind early and we seem to go flat. We have to keep reminding ourselves we have to go hard all nine innings. We did that tonight against a team that manhandled us [in a three-game sweep]."
All of the Dodgers' runs scored with two outs, and after scoring only once in each of their four losses on the trip, they bunched enough runs to overcome a precautionary removal of starter Derek Lowe and a shaky cleanup by the relievers that followed.
First Lowe. He left after five innings with tightness in his elbow, which he said he felt on a pitch to Chris Snyder in the fifth, the second to the last batter Lowe faced. He was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who said Lowe is expected to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday in Florida.
"If it was later in the season, I would have kept pitching," said Lowe, who has never had a serious arm injury.
Lowe had been cruising through four innings when, with a 3-0 lead, he hung a curveball to Stephen Drew, who pulled it into the seats for a home run. The next batter was Snyder and Lowe felt the tightness on the third pitch of the at-bat, which ended with a called third strike. Lowe finished that inning by getting Arizona starting pitcher Dan Haren on a ground out to shortstop.
The Dodgers scored three more in the bottom of the fifth and chased Haren, but Lowe's early exit put the bullpen into motion. Chan Ho Park pitched an inning-plus, Joe Beimel faced two batter, then Jonathan Broxton came on with one out in the seventh. Torre was hoping Broxton could get him to closer Takashi Saito, but it was a 32-pitch struggle.
"The guys who haven't been working a whole lot got a whole lot of work," said Torre.
Saito, who hadn't pitched in a week, took over with one out and two on in the eighth, a save situation with the score 6-2. It took him 34 more pitches to lock down his second save, which also came with his first Major League at-bat. He took a called third strike, following orders from Torre not to swing.
"I didn't want him in that situation to pull a muscle doing something he's not used to doing," said Torre. "We had a three-run lead and if that's not good enough, we're hurting with him on the mound."
Offensively, the Dodgers beat the previously unbeaten Haren, who beat them in Arizona April 7, utilizing a strategy of taking his split-finger fastball and running up his pitch count.
Five Dodgers had multiple hits, Andre Ethier scored three runs and James Loney and Chin-lung Hu drove in a pair each.
"We tried to keep it simple," said Loney, who has five RBIs in the last three games and leads the team with 13. "Just swing at strikes and not swing at his pitches."
Hu started in place of second baseman Jeff Kent, who was getting a day off. Nomar Garciaparra hit in Kent's cleanup spot, singled in a run and scored twice.
"We knew we had to change something," said Matt Kemp, who had two hits. "We did what we talked about and just got the job done."
Rafael Furcal had two hits to raise his average to .398 and a pair of stolen bases to set up a first-inning run.
"That's the way we've got to play every game," said Furcal. "The last 10 games, we didn't do that. We were clutch tonight."