For much of the season Derek Lowe has been searching for success on the mound.
He found it Friday night.
What he couldn't find was enough offense to make that performance stand up, and the result was another frustrating night at the office for Lowe and the Dodgers, who lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1, at Dodger Stadium in a game that was delayed for 65 minutes by rain with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
After play resumed the Dodgers advanced runners to first and third with two outs in the ninth against St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin, but pinch-hitter Andruw Jones struck out to end the game.
Lowe (2-5) deserved a better fate after a strong outing in which he went seven innings for just the second time this year, scattering five hits and striking out five. It was the first time in a month that Lowe allowed fewer than four runs in a start. The quality start was his first since April 12.
Those may be nothing more than moral victories for the right-hander, but they'll have to do since they're the only kind of victories he's had in the last four weeks, during which he's struggled with his emotions and his delivery through six winless starts.
"He just has to get that release point," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said before handing Lowe the ball Friday. "I'm not concerned. That's the big thing with him. Derek just needs movement to make the results a little bit better.
"He's been fighting that movement and it could be something just very simple in grip and release."
Lowe made just one mistake Friday, hanging a 1-1 pitch to Ryan Ludwick with two outs in the third. But that cost him dearly when Ludwick drove it over the center-field wall for his 13th home run, scoring Albert Pujols, who had walked, ahead of him.
On most nights that wouldn't have been enough to beat the Dodgers, who are averaging nearly five runs a game. Unfortunately for Lowe, on this night Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (4-2) outpitched him, barely, through seven innings. And his only mistake stayed in the park -- Chin-lung Hu dropped a fly-ball triple just out of Ludwick's reach in right in the seventh, then scored on pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney's sacrifice fly.
That proved to be all the offense the Dodgers could muster, though not for a lack of opportunities. The Dodgers got runners on in six of their seven innings against Wainwright, who stiffened every time, retiring Jeff Kent three times on fly balls with men on base.
Russell Martin singled, doubled and walked, raising his average to .311, but he was stranded at second after a double to lead off the fourth and was left at third with two outs in the sixth. Matt Kemp, in the second, and Hu, in the fifth, were also left in scoring position with fewer than two outs, as the Dodgers went hitless in nine at-bats with runners on second or third.