Derek Lowe knows baseball fans have a short memory. That’s why his second-half turnaround has once again made him a valued member of the Boston pitching staff.
Lowe will shoot for his fifth straight victory when the Red Sox continue a three-game series with the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics at Network Associates Coliseum.
Lowe, who had won 37 games over the previous two seasons, got off to a brutal start this year. The veteran right-hander was 6-8 with a 6.02 ERA on July 4, raising concerns that he would not be able to contribute to Boston’s postseason push.
But Lowe has rebounded by going 6-1 in his last nine starts, including Thursday’s 4-3 win over Anaheim, helping the Red Sox pull away in the AL wild-card race and close in on the AL East-leading New York Yankees.
“No one remembers what you did in the beginning of the year,” said Lowe. “People want to know how you did in the stretch run. In August and September, I feel this is the time to pitch your best.”
Lowe allowed three runs and seven hits over seven innings against the Angels on Thursday, striking out six and walking one. He has yielded three earned runs or fewer in four of his last five starts, going 4-0 during that stretch and lowering his ERA to 5.15.
“This is a special run that we are going on,” Lowe said. “Especially the time of year, we are getting clutch hits, the defense was phenomenal. We’re having fun.”
The Red Sox continued their run with a series-opening 8-3 win over the A’s. Manny Ramirez belted his 38th homer and David Ortiz hit his 36th and broke the game open with a three-run double in the ninth as Boston won its second straight since having a 10-game winning streak snapped.
Oakland, which has lost two straight after winning 16 of 18, saw its lead in the AL West shaved to 2 1/2 games over Anaheim, which was idle Monday.
Boston, which knocked the A’s out in five dramatic games in last year’s AL division series, improved to 6-1 against Oakland this season. The Red Sox have won 18 of their last 20 overall, remaining 2 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East. Boston is four games in front of Anaheim for the wild card.
If the season ended now, the Red Sox and A’s would meet in the first round for the second straight year.