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Dodgers fail to unload in loss

Times Staff Writer

Ned Colletti makes no attempt to hide the fact that, more than seven weeks before the July 31 trade deadline, he’s already burning up the phone lines in pursuit of a big bat.

But trading for a middle-of-the-order slugger “is becoming as rare and difficult as acquiring an ace,” the Dodgers’ general manager said. “The teams that have them don’t want to part with them, because they’re so tough to find. [Other GMs] see my number come up on their phone, and they just say, ‘No.’ ”

The Dodgers dialed the wrong number again Saturday night, one that, when punched on a phone, will get the operator. Not once did they hit the pound button.

Thwarted twice with the bases loaded and two out, the Dodgers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 1-0, wasting a complete-game, one-run, four-hit gem by Derek Lowe, the league-leading third complete game of the season for the right-hander.

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All have been losses.

“It’s a shame for him to leave that game with a loss,” Manager Grady Little said. “But it’s happened before, and it’s not pretty.”

Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum threw 6 2/3 seven-hit innings, Casey Janssen added two innings of relief, and journeyman Matt Stairs hit a sixth-inning homer for the game’s only run.

The Dodgers went two for 12 with runners in scoring position, and they couldn’t repeat the magic of a night earlier -- Olmedo Saenz, whose 10th-inning, pinch-hit, two-run homer lifted the Dodgers to a dramatic victory Friday, popped to first in the ninth to end the game.

“We’re wasting some awfully good pitching,” Little said, “but like any other game, we’ve got to put it behind us.”

That shouldn’t be a problem for Lowe (6-6), who was asked what went through his mind as he was losing his third complete game of the season.

“Nothing,” he said after getting 17 ground-ball outs. “That’s the beauty of being me. I don’t think about much, so I’m sure by my next start, it will be out of my mind.”

Lowe cruised through five innings, allowing only one runner to reach second base, but he caught too much of the plate with a 1-0 fastball to Stairs with one out in the sixth. Stairs, a 14-year veteran playing for his fourth team in four years, drove it over the wall in right-center for his ninth home run of the season.

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The Dodgers threatened in the bottom of the sixth when Lowe and Rafael Furcal singled. Little spurned a little-ball approach, letting Tony Abreu swing away instead of bunt, but the third baseman fouled out to left.

Nomar Garciaparra popped to first, and Jeff Kent ripped a grounder that seemed headed toward left field until Toronto shortstop John McDonald smothered it.

Kent reached on the infield single, but McDonald’s stop prevented Lowe from scoring. Luis Gonzalez then worked a 3-1 count against Marcum. He fouled off two pitches, and with the Dodger Stadium crowd of 51,057 on its feet and the volume nearing peak decibels, Gonzalez popped to third to end the inning.

The Dodgers loaded the bases again in the seventh when Juan Pierre, dropped to the eighth spot in the order, hit a two-out single to right, his second hit of the game, and Lowe’s mighty swing produced a dribbler that stopped in the grass about 20 feet short of third base for a single.

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“A complete game with two hits,” Lowe said. “I may never do that again in my career.”

That Little didn’t hit for Lowe -- he had Andre Ethier and Wilson Betemit on the bench -- was surprising, but the strategy seemed to work when Furcal, against reliever Scott Downs, beat out a slow roller to third to load the bases.

On a 2-0 count, Little gave Abreu a green light, but the rookie grounded out to shortstop. More frustration followed in the eighth when, with a runner on third and two out, Russell Martin hit a one-hop smash to McDonald, who threw to first for the out.

“We’re challenged without a legitimate 35-homer threat,” Colletti said. “As long as we’re scoring runs and pitching, we’re going to win games, but it does make it easier if you can change the game with one swing of the bat.”

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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