Two days ago I called Derek Lowe the Braves’ ace because that’s how I’ve come to see him. Alas, he’s not pitching like one. We can hope this is a momentary lapse, the kind every pitcher must endure and correct over the course of a six-month season. But the cold truth is that Lowe isn’t looking Lowe-like.
Over his past six starts he has yielded 48 hits and 24 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings. He has won once in a month. He has had to be removed in the middle of innings in his past three outings. His ERA has grown from 3.45 on May 23 to 4.53 today. Only once since he settled in as a big-league pitcher more than a decade ago has Lowe finished a season with an ERA that lofty.
This is, as I say, unlike him. And the reason Lowe isn’t being Lowe is because his famed sinker seems not to be sinking. Over his first 10 starts — six of them wins — he recorded 101 ground outs against 47 air outs. Over his past six starts — four of them losses — the ratio is 53 against 33.
You can say, “Well, maybe he’s starting to get tired.” But sinkerballers tend to throw better sinkers when they’re a bit weary. (That’s what makes them so maddening for opposing hitters.) Dave O’Brien’s game story gave no hint of arm trouble, just Lowe citing a lack of command and vowing to work harder.
Ah, well. A session or two with Roger McDowell will surely remedy all ills. We need only remind ourselves of the vast number of pitchers McDowell has fixed over his three-plus seasons here. Like … well, like … somebody give me a hint, OK?