Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Ten of 11 earned runs against Derek Lowe this spring came in three innings, and the veteran pitcher didn’t know quite what to make of that Wednesday.
“That’s either good or bad,” Lowe said of that statistic. “You couldn’t stop the bleeding, or the other innings were good.”
He was charged with six hits and three runs in four innings of a 10-5 win against the Houston Astros on Wednesday, Lowe’s final tuneup before an opening-day start against the Chicago Cubs on Monday.
The recurring spring pattern: all the runs off Lowe were in one inning, the first inning, on a walk and two hits, including Chris Johnson’s two-out homer on a sinker that didn’t sink.
“It was a little lethargic,” the veteran right-hander said. “Wasn’t the greatest of starts. But I think obviously the last three innings [were better]
“… Wasn’t as sharp as you’d want to be. But it’s hard not to start looking forward when you’re only five days away, knowing that you’ve still got to go out there and make your last [spring] start.”
Lowe had three strikeouts and his first two walks of the spring. In five Grapefruit League starts he was charged with 25 hits and two walks in 22 innings and had 18 strikeouts.
“After that first inning he found his location with his fastball, kept it down, kept them off-balance today,” catcher Brian McCann said. “His success comes with that sinker and how much it moves and how much he’s throwing it for strikes.”
Except for three woeful innings, Lowe’s spring was a success. But those three were a thrill ride.
He gave up five hits and three runs in one inning against the Mets, when a blister popped on his right big toe on the third pitch of the game and he came out after one inning.
He gave up four runs in the fourth inning of an otherwise dominant five-inning outing against Toronto, and then Wednesday’s first inning.
“But overall I’d say it was a good spring,” Lowe said. “A lot of it was pretty consistent.”
Statistically, his 3-0 spring record and 4.50 ERA seem reminiscent of the 2009 season, when Lowe went 15-10 despite a 4.67 ERA in his first season with the Braves — more than a full run higher than his ERA over the previous four seasons with the Dodgers.
He pitched far more soundly in most innings this spring than during the second half of last season. And the rocky few innings didn’t seem to raise any caution flags with the Braves.
“He walked a couple of guys, but he was only missing by inches,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He had a great spring, I think.”