PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Derek Lowe planned for a nice tune-up start Saturday, but instead the Braves pitcher got knocked around by Mets hitters and undermined by his own defense.
The Braves made five errors and Lowe was charged with seven hits and six runs (four earned) in an 8-2 road loss against the New York Mets. It was Lowe’s final spring game before his opening-day start March 31 at Washington.
“It’s hard to gear up, but on the other hand you don’t want to go out there and be a human batting-practice machine, either, like I was at times [Saturday],” Lowe said. “I’m happy we’re done. It wasn’t the sharpest game, no doubt about it. It really wasn’t very good, that’s what it boils down to.
“But the second you’re done you’ve already forgotten about it and can’t wait to start [the regular season].”
Lowe gave up four hits and three runs in the first inning, one unearned after two errors by rookie right fielder/roster hopeful Wilkin Ramirez. The Mets also scored three runs in the third inning, two unearned after a two-out error by third baseman Brooks Conrad.
“The good thing is, there were still some ground balls,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of his veteran sinkerballer’s performance. “We weren’t real pretty behind him, either.”
After allowing only eight hits and one run in 14 innings over his first four starts, Lowe has surrendered 14 hits and nine runs (seven earned) in 9-1/3 innings over his past two.
“All in all, I’m happy with the way the spring went,” said Lowe, who makes his third consecutive Braves opening-day start. “It was as I hoped it would be, taking today out of the equation.
“You’re confident with stuff going into the season, which I think is most important. You don’t have to go into the season worrying about tinkering with this or that. You’re confident with where you are.”
He didn’t throw breaking balls to a couple of good Mets hitters whom he’ll throw almost exclusively breaking balls against during the regular season, but other than that he went about pitching as he would in any start.
Lowe said the poor defense didn’t cause him to struggle, that he just didn’t pitch well. In four innings, he issued two leadoff walks. He also allowed a well-hit, two-out RBI single by Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey in the third inning.
“Sometimes you just admit you weren’t very good,” said Lowe, 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA in six spring starts.“Today was one of those times. Not going to sugarcoat it.
”I wasn’t going to leave today overly cheery if I pitched good or sad if I pitched bad.”
He did point out one difference between his next start and the one he made Saturday.
“Hopefully we won’t have to bus two hours to the game in Washington,” he said.
Port St. Lucie is a two-hour bus ride from the Braves’ spring home outside Orlando.