Braves need Lowe to make another surprising rebound
When Randall Delgado began this season with Double-A Mississippi, there was obviously no reason to believe he would produce what might prove to be the most important victorious start any Braves pitchers might make this season.
Yes there might be even more important starts over the next week or during the playoffs. But the Braves needed somebody to stop the bleeding last night and Delgado was there to deliver five scoreless innings. On the way to recording his first career victory, the 21-year-old right-hander set the tone for the evening and quite possibly the next week.
Had the Braves lost a third consecutive game Tuesday night, they would be entering tonight’s series finale against the Marlins owning just a 1 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race.
With Derek Lowe set to oppose Javier Vazquez tonight, there would not have been much comfort or confidence swirling around Braves Nation. Vazquez is 4-0 with a 0.31 ERA in his past four starts and the 2.03 ERA he has constructed dating back to June 16 ranks as the fifth best mark in the Majors during this span.
This is the best Vazquez has pitched since the Braves were financially forced to trade him after the 2009 season when it became apparent that they could not find any suitors for Lowe.
“He’s pitching great right now and there’s no doubt we’ll have our hands full,” Lowe said. “I’ve played against him and with him for a long time. You know what he’s capable of doing. There’s probably some motivation for him to pitch well against us and make it harder for us to get to the playoffs. Confidence will also be there because he’s had a great September.” <p>
Lowe is coming off the worst start of what he has defined “the worst year he has ever had.” The usually upbeat 38-year-old veteran has displayed plenty of frustration since allowing the Mets six earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings Friday. He is 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in three starts this month.
Lowe completed a short pen session Tuesday afternoon in attempt to gain comfort with some of the slight mechanical changes he has been attempting to make.
Obviously the Braves are not going to see Lowe make the dramatic turnaround that he did with his perfect run through September last year. But the much maligned hurler still seemingly has the knack to deliver when he is creating the most doubt.
Six days after allowing the Nationals seven earned runs and 10 hits in just four innings on Aug. 2, Lowe limited the Marlins to two earned runs while completing six innings on the same mound he will throw off of tonight.
Lowe has allowed just two earned runs in the 12 2/3 innings he has pitched in Miami this year and he is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his past three starts against the Marlins.
What? Would you have rather looked at even more disappointing numbers that only confirm what your eyes have told you when you have watched Lowe pitch this season?
The Braves own a 2 1/2-game lead in the Wild Card race and their magic number sits at six with seven games to play. If they win four of these seven games, the Cardinals would have to win seven of their last eight games just to force a one-game playoff to determine which team would compete in the Division Series.
When the Braves host the Phillies next week in Atlanta, it appears they will not have to deal with even a few innings of Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. They could oppose Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley Monday. During the final two games, they’ll likely face Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
During last year’s regular season finale, Hamels pitched two innings against the Braves and Oswalt followed with one inning of relief. Both will likely make abbreviated appearances again in preparation for the playoffs.
Tonight will mark the final game the Braves will ever play at what is now known as Sun Life Stadium. It’s safe to say there will not be one tear shed when baseball says goodbye to this football stadium.
The Braves have actually enjoyed a few moments while playing in this stadium with many names. The one that stands out occurred in 2009, when Tim Hudson made a successful return from Tommy John surgery. Of course he had to wait through a couple hours worth of rain delays before throwing his first pitch that night.
But when Braves fans think of this place that has been called Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and Sun Life Stadium, they will never forget Game 5 of the 1997 National League Championship Series. That was the day when plate umpire Eric Gregg and Livan Hernandez combined for 15 strikeouts.
Like I said, members of Braves Nation will not be shedding a tear when they bid adieu to this stadium tonight.