Saunders helps Angels slide by Dodgers, 4-2

Times Staff Writer

Maybe it's the slow-and-go traffic on the 5 Freeway or that passage through the Orange Curtain, but somewhere between Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Dodgers have been turning into mush.

In their last 10 games since 2005 in Angel Stadium, the Dodgers have come away losers nine times, including a 4-2 interleague defeat at the hands of the Angels on Friday night.

Joe Saunders allowed two runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings to improve to 7-1, beating a Dodgers team that went 10-3 in its first 13 games against left-handed starters this season.

Setup man Scot Shields retired the two batters he faced in the eighth, and closer Francisco Rodriguez, pitching for the fourth consecutive night, struck out two of three in the ninth for his major league-leading 17th save.

The Dodgers committed two errors, one that led to an unearned run in the fourth inning, and a mistake that cost them a baserunner in the fourth. A bad throw helped the Angels score their final run in the seventh.

"They cracked the door open a little bit," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, "and that helped us."

In the Dodgers' last 10 games in Anaheim, they have committed 15 errors.

No. 14 came in the fourth inning Friday night, when catcher Gary Bennett, after blocking a ball in the dirt on Erick Aybar's two-out strikeout, sailed a throw at least five feet over the head of first baseman James Loney's head, allowing Casey Kotchman, who had doubled, to score for a 1-0 lead.

No. 15 came in the sixth inning, when catcher-turned-third-baseman Russell Martin's off-balance throw on Robb Quinlan's grounder got by Loney.

That miscue didn't cost the Dodgers a run, but another bad throw by Martin, who one-hopped Bennett in an attempt to cut down Maicer Izturis at the plate in the seventh, probably did.

And then there was Andruw Jones. As if the Dodgers outfielder wasn't struggling enough -- he's hitting .176 with two homers and seven runs batted in -- his season took another bizarre twist in the fourth, when he led off with a grounder to Aybar.

The Angels shortstop overthrew Kotchman at first for an error. When Jones was about 10 feet past the bag, he turned his shoulder toward second before heading back to the first.

Kotchman retrieved the ball quickly and tagged Jones, who was initially ruled safe, umpire Sam Holbrook calling the play dead. But Scioscia came out to argue that because Jones gave an impression he was going to second, the play was still live.

Holbrook conferred with crew chief Gerry Davis, the call was overturned, and Jones was ruled out.

"In these types of games, you look at these things, and they're magnified, no question about it," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. "I mean, Andruw overreacted to an overthrow at first, and all of a sudden you realize it didn't go in the dugout or very far away. Errors in judgment and in the field are the things that seem to stand out."

The lone Dodgers highlight came in the seventh, when Loney singled and Andre Either lined a two-run home run to right to pull the Dodgers within 3-2.

But Izturis led off the bottom of the seventh for the Angels with a walk and advanced to second and third on wild pitches by Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda.

Guerrero chopped a grounder over Martin's head that umpire Bruce Dreckman ruled foul. Scioscia stormed out of the dugout for one of his most heated -- and elongated -- arguments in years, waving his hands and wagging fingers at the umpire.

The exchange lasted about two minutes, and somehow did not result in an ejection.

"I thought it was a fair ball," Scioscia said. "He's a conscientious ump, but I thought he missed that call."

Replays showed the ball was fair. Guerrero then chopped another grounder to Martin, who threw low to home, allowing Izturis to score for a 4-2 lead.

The Angels made it 3-0 in the fifth when Izturis, starting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, reached on an infield single and took third on Gary Matthews Jr.'s single to right.

Guerrero hit a sacrifice fly to right that advanced Matthews to third, and Garret Anderson followed with a run-scoring single to right.

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