It's long, short for Dodgers in loss

Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers Manager Joe Torre asked for a do-over Wednesday night. Starting pitcher Derek Lowe didn't bother.

While Torre complained that the words said to him by home plate umpire Chris Guccione led to him burning a substitution in the eighth inning of the Dodgers' 9-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, Lowe offered no alibi for what he did on the mound, serving up season-highs of eight runs and 13 hits in a season-low 3 1/3 innings.

"You can't leave flat sinkers right over the plate and I did that on a regular basis," Lowe said.

Wasted was the production of a resurgent lineup bolstered by Manny Ramirez, who hit his third home run in five games with the Dodgers. Bolstered was the status of the one of the other great right-handed hitters of this generation, the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, who crushed a high fastball from Lowe for a game-changing, fourth-inning grand slam.

Pujols' shot was followed by another home run, a solo blast by Ryan Ludwick that put the Cardinals ahead by an 8-3 margin.

There was no sense in denying how poorly Lowe pitched.

"Our pitching's what's been keep us together the whole year, so we'll spot him a game every now and then," catcher Russell Martin said.

Up for debate, however, was a ruling by the umpiring crew that prompted the Dodgers to play the game under protest.

The game-delaying incident in question took place in the eighth, when Casey Blake doubled with one out to drive in James Loney and closed the gap to 9-6.

Torre had sent Mark Sweeney into the on-deck circle to pinch hit for the next batter, Pablo Ozuna, but when Blake doubled, he wanted to send Jeff Kent to the plate instead.

Guccione turned to the Dodgers' dugout to ask Torre whether Sweeney was in the game. Torre and first base umpire Tim Welke agreed at that point, Torre asked Guccione whether Sweeney was in the game and because Guccione never signaled that he was, he was told no.

Unbeknownst to the manager and home plate umpire, Sweeney stepped into the batter's box with Welke watching, making the substitution official, according to rule 3.08 (2). And when Torre indicated that Kent would pinch hit instead of Sweeney, Guccione signaled Kent into the game, which meant Sweeney had been subbed out and couldn't hit for the next batter, Angel Berroa, as Torre's design.

Torre argued at length with the officiating crew and filed a protest that Welke confidently said would go nowhere.

"We're right on this one," he said.

Torre's contention wasn't that Sweeney didn't step into the batter's box -- Sweeney admitted that he did -- but that he was misinformed by the umpire. He said he hoped the game would be replayed starting with Kent's at-bat.

"If I can't believe the umpire, how do I go about my business here?" he said.

Kent struck out looking on three pitches and Berroa popped up to first to end the inning.

Torre admitted that his protest would likely fail, meaning the Dodgers' outfield situation remained his most pressing dilemma.

Only five days after saying Juan Pierre would get the majority of playing time in center field, Torre lined up an outfield consisting of Ramirez in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right for the second consecutive day. He said he wanted to play Ethier because of the quality of his at-bats the previous night.

"I don't think you can ever figure it out," Torre said, adding that only Ramirez was assured a regular place in the lineup.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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