The Atlanta Braves have the NL’s second-best record and are frontrunners in the wild-card race. However, they’ve managed to get to this position despite Derek Lowe’s struggles on the mound.
Lowe hopes to bounce back from his worst outing of the season and avoid losing a fourth straight start as he takes the ball for the Braves in Monday night’s series opener against the Florida Marlins.
Since limiting the Marlins to two hits in 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 3-2, 10-inning win June 8, Lowe (6-10, 4.86 ERA) has the majors’ second-worst ERA at 6.54. Things have been going even worse lately for the sinkerballer, who has a 9.00 ERA in losing his last three starts.
“It’s been a tough stretch – long year,” Lowe said after being tagged for a season-high eight runs and 10 hits in four innings of Tuesday’s 9-3 loss to Washington. “You’ve got to keep fighting, hopefully things will turn around. But it’s definitely one of my longer years in my career.”
One more poor outing could lead to the first four-start losing streak of the 15-year veteran’s career. This is his ninth three-start losing skid.
Lowe has pitched well in his last two starts against the Marlins, however, yielding one run over 12 1-3 innings. The right-hander had posted a 7.46 ERA in his previous seven outings against them.
Lowe would probably be glad if Hanley Ramirez decided to take another day off to rest his left shoulder. Ramirez, who has sat out the last four games after suffering a sprain Tuesday, is batting .538 with a homer and six doubles in 26 career at-bats against Lowe.
The Braves (66-49), who have a 3 1/2-game lead over Arizona for the wild card, took two of three from the Marlins (55-59) at Turner Field last weekend and have won six of seven in the series. They arrive in Florida after beating the New York Mets 6-5 on Sunday for their third victory in four games.
Chipper Jones hit a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning, and Dan Uggla extended his hitting streak to 28 games with a two-out single in the eighth. Uggla tied Marquis Grissom for the third-longest hitting streak, and can now tie Rowland Office’s 29-game hitting streak, set in 1976.
The two-time All-Star second baseman, batting .355 with 12 homers and 26 RBIs during his run, had one hit in each game against the Marlins last weekend. Two of those hits were three-run homers.
He’ll be facing Brad Hand (1-3, 2.86) for the second time in his career after going hitless in two at-bats against him June 7. Hand was making his major league debut, and allowed just one hit – a solo homer to Alex Gonzalez – while striking out six in six innings of a 1-0 loss.
Against the Mets on Tuesday, Hand gave up two runs and seven hits in five innings of a 4-3 win, but didn’t receive a decision. The rookie left-hander has yielded two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts, with the Marlins winning each time.
Although Florida has had no trouble winning with Hand on the mound, it hasn’t had much other success lately.
With Sunday’s 8-4 loss to St. Louis, the Marlins were swept in a four-game series at home for the second time in two months. They’ve lost eight of 10 in Miami and are 9-23 at home since May 22.
“It looks like we play so much more relaxed on the road, “Jack McKeon said. “I suggest we play a few days with our road uniforms and see how that works out.”