Lowe has a chance to surprise yet again
With a one-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race with two games to play, Braves fans seem a little uneasy about the fact that Derek Lowe is going to the mound to oppose Roy Oswalt and the Phillies tonight at The Ted.
How do you think Red Sox fans felt on Oct. 20, 2004, when Lowe was preparing to oppose Kevin Brown and the Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at old Yankee Stadium?
Yeah, it’s been seven years since Lowe limited the Yankees to one run over six innings that night to complete the Red Sox historic comeback in that memorable ALCS. And yes, at 38-years-old Lowe should not be expected to do the things he did at the age of 31. <p>
But are you really going to be that surprised if Lowe comes out and produces one of his finest starts of the season tonight? Hasn’t he already proven that he is at his best when he has given fans every reason to doubt him? This proved to be the case with the Red Sox in 2004 and the Braves just last year.
OK, you’re right, there was not a need to once again attempt to create optimism by pointing out how Lowe has turned things around at the most unexpected times in the past. You’ve heard enough about this and right now the only thing you should care about are the results that Lowe has not provided throughout most of this season.
Lowe has gone 4-10 with a 5.92 ERA in his past 14 starts and instead of getting better as the end of regular season neared he regressed. The veteran hurler has gone 0-4 with an 8.24 ERA in four starts this month.
If these numbers have not provided enough discouragement, Lowe has allowed 18 hits and nine earned runs in his past 11 innings against the Phillies. Makes it hard to believe he held this team hitless through six innings of his victorious May 6 start in Philadelphia.
But it’s not as if the Phillies have given Lowe fits over the past few years. He is 4-6 with a 3.67 ERA in the 11 starts he has made against Philadelphia while pitching for the Braves. He has also allowed two runs or fewer in seven of those 11 starts.
So it’s not as if Lowe will enter tonight’s start without some sense of confidence against Utley, Howard and Co.
The Braves could have even more reason to be concerned about an offense that has scored two runs or fewer in four of the past five games.
Fortunately for the Braves, Chipper Jones is back in the lineup tonight. The veteran third baseman sent a text message this morning confirming he was going to undergo an MRI exam to determine the extent of damage in the sore right knee that he aggravated during Monday night’s loss.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has put Brian McCann back in the sixth spot of the lineup for tonight’s matchup against Oswalt. As McCann continues to say that he is healthy, his numbers tell another story.
After missing three weeks with a strained left oblique muscle, McCann returned on Aug. 14 confident that he was ready to resume his role as a force in the middle of the Braves lineup. But his production has been essentially limited to a pair of two-homer games. The .168 batting average he has produced dating back to Aug. 14 ranks as the lowest mark produced by any qualified Major League player.
The Braves enter tonight’s game against the Phillies with their magic number to clinch at two. With help from the Astros, Cubs and Mets, that magic number has been reduced from six to two during a five-day span that has included just one Atlanta win.
If the Braves win tonight and the Cardinals lose a second straight game to the Astros, Atlanta will have clinched the NL Wild Card for a second straight season.
If the Wild Card is not clinched tonight, the Braves will have to send Tim Hudson to the mound for Wednesday’s regular season finale. This would mean he would be unavailable for Game 1 of the NLDS. He would be on short rest if asked to pitch what would be Game 2 of the NLDS.