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Lowe absorbs loss as Dodgers give up 4 unearned runs

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- If David Eckstein keeps hitting like this, the
Cardinals won't miss Scott Rolen very much.

Eckstein set the table for another St. Louis victory with three
hits, helping the Cardinals beat Derek Lowe and the sloppy Los
Angeles Dodgers 10-3 Thursday.

The scrappy shortstop singled, doubled and tripled to extend his
hitting streak to 13 games. He finished the four-game series
11-for-16.

"Yeah, I had a good series, but we've got another game
tomorrow," Eckstein said. "One at-bat feeds into the next one.
Just getting to where you feel comfortable and taking good swings,
that's the key."

Eckstein wasn't the only one to step up in Rolen's absence after
the all-star third baseman went on the 15-day disabled list with a
sprained left shoulder. Chris Carpenter (5-2) struck out eight in
seven innings, Yadier Molina had three hits in his first start
since spraining his left ankle last weekend and John Mabry hit a
two-run double in his second game since replacing Rolen at third.

The ensemble performance made up for an off day by Albert
Pujols. The slugger was 0-for-5 and failed to reach base by a hit
or walk for the first time in 43 games dating to last season. He
struck out three times for the first time this season. After
striking out seven times in his first 26 games, he has fanned six
times in the last eight.

St. Louis, which completed a 4-4 homestand, beat the Dodgers at
home for the eighth time in nine games dating to the playoffs last
fall.

Milton Bradley homered in the second inning, and Paul Bako and
Lowe had RBI singles for the Dodgers.

Lowe (2-4), who won the final game in each playoff series last
year to help the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series title
since 1918, allowed six runs, but just two of them were earned. He
gave up 10 hits in five innings with two walks and six strikeouts.

In Lowe's first regular-season appearance against the Cardinals,
Los Angeles had two errors and a passed ball in a five-run third
inning that included four unearned runs.

Second baseman Oscar Robles missed the bag on what would have
been an easy forceout on Pujols with two outs, allowing a run to
score. Pujols then scored from first when right fielder J.D. Drew's
relay to the plate went to the backstop on Jim Edmonds' run-scoring
single, and Edmonds scored on a passed ball, a pitch that just
missed hitting Reggie Sanders.

"I don't like to make excuses, but I really feel that two-out
play at second base was obviously a huge turning point in this
game," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "I think the situation
snowballed after the call."

Lowe pitched seven scoreless innings in Game 4 of the World
Series as Boston completed a four-game sweep of St. Louis. He
retired his first seven hitters on routine plays Thursday, then
faced 10 batters in the third.

"I was watching Derek Lowe and I was getting all kinds of ugly
nightmares about October," manager Tony La Russa said. "We caught
some breaks, there were some funny plays there."

Lowe didn't see his return to St. Louis as a significant event.

"You can't compare the two: one's Game 4 and one's Game 30 of
the year or whatever it is," Lowe said. "They put a whipping on
us."

Eckstein singled and scored in the third, doubled in the fourth,
walked in the sixth and tripled off the base of the wall in
left-center in the seventh. Ten of his hits came in the last three
games of the series. St. Louis won three of four in the matchup of
division leaders, outscoring the Dodgers 31-17 over the four games.

Los Angeles left the bases loaded in the second and fourth
innings against Carpenter, who allowed three runs -- two earned --
and eight hits.

Game notes
The game was played on the 39th anniversary of the opener
at Busch Stadium, which is to be demolished after the season.
Manager Red Schoendienst and a handful of players from the 1966
team were honored in a pregame ceremony. ... Eckstein is batting
.424 (25-for-59) during his hitting streak, the longest current run
in the NL, and has raised his average to .333. ... The Dodgers are
5-6 in their last 11 games, alternating wins and losses throughout
until dropping the last two games. ... The Cardinals have had only
two losing homestands of four or more games since the start of the
2003 season. ... After the game the Cardinals optioned C Mike
Mahoney to Triple-A Memphis to make room for closer Jason
Isringhausen, who will be activated from the 15-day disabled list
in time for a nine-game trip.