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09/06/08 2:05 AM ET

Haren struggles in D-backs' loss

Right-hander lasts four innings in shortest outing of season

LOS ANGELES -- And then it was half a game.

The D-backs watched their lead in the National League West dwindle to the smallest of margins after they dropped a 7-0 decision to the Dodgers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

It certainly was not the way the D-backs wanted to begin this three-game series with their closest division competitor. Just one week ago, the D-backs led by 4 1/2 games after beating the Dodgers in the first game of a three-game set at Chase Field.

With aces Dan Haren and Brandon Webb going in the series final two games, the D-backs had a chance to really distance themselves. Instead the Dodgers won the final two games of the series and they've had the momentum in this race since.

"They outhit us, they outpitched us, they played better than we did in the field," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.

Haren (14-8) struggled from the onset in this one, his third poor outing in his past four starts, as the Dodgers grabbed a quick 4-0 lead.

"We got down right away and it seemed like we were down by 15 runs," left fielder Conor Jackson said.

Andre Ethier got the Dodgers on the board in the first with his 20th homer of the season. The right fielder then capped a three-run second inning with a two-run single, as the Dodgers went on top, 4-0.

"Ethier has killed us," Melvin said.

Indeed, and he wasn't done, as he wound up matching his career high with five RBIs.

Ethier's hit was the big blow of the inning, but neither he nor Russell Martin, who drove in the other run, would have come to the plate had Haren not walked pitcher Derek Lowe with two outs.

"For a guy that doesn't walk anybody, to walk the pitcher in that position it certainly came back to haunt him," Melvin said of Haren, who came into the game with the NL's best strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Overall, Haren allowed five runs on six hits in just four innings, his shortest outing of the year.

"I really thought he was a little bit better stuffwise than he was the last couple of times out," Melvin said. "Just caught the big part of the plate when he couldn't afford to and the one big inning got him."

It's not known how Haren felt about his outing because he departed the clubhouse without speaking with reporters.

While Haren struggled, Lowe was on top of his game for the second straight time against the D-backs. The right-hander allowed just two hits over eight innings.

"He had his sinker and slider and got a lot of ground balls," center fielder Chris Young said. "You think you're on it and you're off just a little bit and you get the ground ball. He pitched a good game today."

In his past two starts against the D-backs, Lowe has thrown 14 scoreless innings.

"When you see him get a lot of ground balls early on and early-count swings, it means he's on his game," Melvin said.

A loss Saturday would knock the D-backs out of first place and would mark the first time they haven't been in sole possession or tied for the top spot since April 5.

"We've got to come out tomorrow, forget about tonight and play the game the way we know how to play it," Jackson said.

Grabbing an early lead against Chad Billingsley would be a good start. In their past three games against the Dodgers, all losses, the D-backs have been behind almost from the first pitch.

"We're going to have to refocus and come out and take it to them early on," Melvin said. "It seems like the games they've gotten here as of late they've come out early in the game, put us behind and kept the pressure on us."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.