10:20 am Aug. 14, 2012
Derek Lowe, winning pitcher for the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series that completed what was arguably the greatest postseason comeback in baseball history, joined the Yankees on Monday.
His debut went better than anyone could have expected, with Lowe pitching four scoreless innings in an 8-2 Yankees win, earning a save for his efforts.
But while the Lowe of 2004 had plenty of good years ahead of him, it would be unfair to expect him to be able to replicate Monday night's performance with regularity.
The Yankees didn't acquire Lowe through some blockbuster trade. Now 39, Lowe was picked up via waivers from the Cleveland Indians, who no longer had any use for him. The problem Lowe has is that, while he is getting as many ground balls as ever thanks to his sinker, he doesn't throw many strikes anymore.
Lowe has built a career around the ground ball and a strikeout rate of about six per nine innings, with his rates in 2010 and 2011 just above that. In 2012, he's been striking out 3.1 per nine, which is below the level any pitcher can expect to succeed. His control has been a bit worse than usual, with his walks at 3.4 per nine innings, up from a career mark of 2.7 per nine. But it's the strikeouts that are a problem.
Put another way: he started 21 games with the Indians this year. He managed more strikeouts than he posted last night—in relief—in just two of them.
The Yankees are hoping that the half-season he gave Cleveland is a statistical blip, and that Lowe can revert to the form that has made him a good, sometimes excellent starting pitcher for a decade, and a strong reliever for five seasons before that. The bet is worth making; the Yankees are paying him the league minimum, and as of now, don't even need to rely on him to start, just to give the Yankees a long man out of the bullpen missing since Freddy Garcia rejoined the rotation.
But last night is far likelier to be akin to David Cone's 2003 comeback with the Mets, which began with five scoreless innings and ended four difficult outings later, than with the rebirth of Lowe's career.
Of course, the same could have been said about Boston's chances when they trailed the Yankees, 3-0, in a best-of-seven series.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
David Wright weighed in on what it will take for him to sign in New York long-term, and said that winning was more important to him than money. He also said he wouldn't negotiated in-season next year. So it is up to the Mets to show Wright something in the next few months.
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler didn't spend a lot of time working on chemistry issues at the Olympics.
To maximize Joe Johnson, the Nets will need better passing from their big men.
The soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows looks closer than ever, and the M.L.S. team that will play there could be owned by a rich guy from Dubai. Like Manchester City, but in Queens.
Justin Tuck doesn't view the Wildcat offense as anything special to prepare for.
Antonio Cromartie finally got his wish: he's a wide receiver, too, at least in practice.