Lowe can't rehash history vs. Yanks
Braves righty struggles, dropping third straight start
ATLANTA -- Derek Lowe will always have fond memories of the victorious effort he produced during Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. But most of his recent regular-season encounters against the Yankees have evolved into nights that he'd like to forget.
By the time the Yankees concluded their 11-7 victory over the Braves at Turner Field on Thursday night, Lowe had been provided plenty of time to erase some of the sting created by the pounding he'd incurred. But in the midst of a rough three-start stretch, it will be a while before he forgets a night when he was battered for 11 hits over the course of just three-plus innings.
"We had a chance to win a series for the first time in a long time, and I go out and get shelled for the second time in three starts," said Lowe after losing a third consecutive start for the first time since July 19, 2006.
Since beginning this 10-game homestand with back-to-back shutout victories, the Braves have suffered a pair of losses that have been stained by a rejuvenated Alex Rodriguez, who damaged Lowe with a first-inning solo homer and then diminished any comeback hopes with a two-run seventh-inning single off Peter Moylan.
"That was pretty much the turning point tonight," said Jeff Francoeur, whose second successive multihit performance was highlighted by a double in a five-run fourth inning against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte. "We couldn't catch up."
With his bases-loaded two-run single, Rodriguez gave the Yankees a 10-6 lead and capped his three-hit, four-RBI performance that further distanced him from the 1-for-25 skid he'd endured before providing a go-ahead two-run single with the bases loaded during Wednesday night's sixth inning.
"They've got a great hitting team," manager Bobby Cox said after he watched the Yankees compile 26 hits over the final 13 innings of this three-game series. "I can't even imagine them with the [designated hitter] involved. There's not an easy out anywhere when everybody is in there."
Making his first start against the Yankees since eliminating them from the 2004 postseason, Lowe was charged with eight runs (six earned).
Struggling with his command and his patented sinker, the 36-year-old right-hander allowed six of the first seven batters he faced to reach safely during a two-run first inning and then managed to limit his second-inning damage to a Rodriguez RBI single.
"There wasn't one positive thing coming out of this game," said Lowe, who was bidding to escape the third inning unscathed before former Red Sox teammate Johnny Damon delivered a three-run triple into the right-field corner.
Lowe is well aware of the struggles he's encountered while going 2-4 with a 10.36 ERA in his past six regular-season starts against the Yankees. But more concerning now is the reality that he's posted a 12.34 ERA and seen opponents hit .426 against him in his past three starts.
This latest effort against the Yankees proved to be as troubling for Lowe as the one he produced against the Orioles on June 14, when he allowed seven earned runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings.
"You look back at my struggles against this team and today was a completely different team," Lowe said. "Today was just awful pitching. Anytime you face an American League team, you have to be able to command your offspeed pitches. If you get in predictable counts, they're going to wear you out."
Finding the success that eluded them when Lowe allowed one run over six innings in the series-clinching game of the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees saw their first two hitters -- Derek Jeter and Damon -- reach safely during each of the first three innings.
"[Lowe has] had success against us before, so it's not like people were running to the bat racks to go face him," Jeter said. "He knows what he's doing. He's been a great pitcher for a long time, but today, he left some balls up and we took advantage of him. But it's not like it's fun to face him."
Lowe's early exit placed an unwanted toll on a Braves bullpen that had been taxed after Joba Chamberlain's line drive found Kenshin Kawakami's neck in the third inning of Wednesday's 8-4 loss. Just 24 hours after throwing 45 pitches, Kris Medlen relieved Lowe during the fourth inning and then gave way to Eric O'Flaherty and Boone Logan, who worked a scoreless sixth in his season debut.
When Yunel Escobar chased Pettitte and capped the fourth-inning uprising with a two-run single, the Braves had sliced five runs off their seven-run deficit. But their bid to enjoy a comeback victory seemed to end when Rodriguez fisted Moylan's 2-2 sinker into shallow right field.
"We did a good job coming back," Francoeur said. "Against a team like that, you have to give them credit. They're not going to be held hitless for a long time. They broke their bats out and didn't stop."
Seemingly fighting a daily battle with his sore right hip, Escobar committed an error that allowed the Yankees to score two unearned runs in the fourth inning. But while batting fifth for the first time this season, he enjoyed a three-RBI performance and raised his batting average to .403 (27-for-67) with runners in scoring position.
"I like that our hitting is coming around," Francoeur said. "We're scoring some runs. Derek [Lowe] isn't going to continue like this. We know he'll get hot."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.