That’s why it’s no surprise he’ll be giving his right-hander the ball on three days’ rest on Monday in Game 4 of the NL championship series, as the host Dodgers look to pull even with the Philadelphia Phillies in a series filled with heightened tension following a benches-clearing incident.
Not including starts that followed relief appearances, Lowe has only made one previous postseason start on short rest—but Torre remembers it well. At the end of a wild 2004 AL championship series, Lowe saved a depleted Boston pitching staff by starting Game 7 on just two days’ rest, throwing six innings of one-hit ball at Yankee Stadium as the Red Sox beat Torre’s New York club 10-3.
Perhaps that factored into Torre’s thinking when he chose Lowe over veteran Greg Maddux and rookie Clayton Kershaw to start Game 4. Torre also said that the upcoming off day on Tuesday helped his decision, as Lowe would be able to pitch a possible Game 7 on full rest.
Lowe (1-1, 3.18 ERA) lost Game 1 in Philadelphia on Thursday after allowing home runs to Chase Utley and Pat Burrell in the sixth inning of Los Angeles’ 3-2 defeat, but the sinker-baller won Game 1 of the Dodgers’ division series against the Chicago Cubs and has a 3.32 ERA in 78 2-3 career postseason innings.
“I think he’s got the mindset and the experience that makes him raise his hand any time you think about doing something like this,” Torre said. “And it certainly makes my job easier as opposed to trying to talk somebody into pitching on short rest.”
Lowe is also 4-0 with a 2.58 ERA in his last six regular-season starts against the Phillies, and he went 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA overall at Dodger Stadium this season, with the most recent loss coming on July 31.
He will have a chance to help square the series after Los Angeles won 7-2 on Sunday night. The Dodgers dropped the first two games in Philadelphia, but they wasted no time asserting themselves at home, scoring five runs in the first inning off Phillies starter Jamie Moyer, highlighted by Blake DeWitt’s two-out, three-run triple.
After the clubs each went 4-0 at home against each other in the regular season, the home team has now won all three games of the NLCS. Los Angeles also went 23-9 at home in the regular season after the All-Star break, and has started the postseason with wins in its first two games at Dodger Stadium.
“We needed to get the momentum back,” catcher Russell Martin said. “I think we did that.”
They also helped add a bit more intrigue to the series when Kuroda threw a pitch over the head of Philadelphia outfielder Shane Victorino, apparently in retaliation for a Brett Myers pitch that sailed behind Ramirez in Game 2. Martin said the Dodgers were trying to “make a statement,” and the Phillies received the message as both benches emptied. Ramirez was among those who needed to be restrained.
“It’s baseball,” DeWitt said. “Emotions are high. There are two competitive teams going at it. It’s a series where two teams are fighting to get into a World Series. Nobody’s letting down and nobody’s going to give in. But it’s over and done with. Both these teams are concentrating on winning ballgames.”
The Phillies again try to move within one win of their first NL pennant since 1993 with Joe Blanton on the mound. Rather than throw ace Cole Hamels on short rest after his Game 1 victory, manager Charlie Manuel again picked Blanton (1-0, 1.50), who was acquired from Oakland in a midseason trade.
In his first career postseason start, Blanton won the clinching Game 4 of the division series last Sunday, allowing one run and five hits in six innings of a 6-2 win at Milwaukee, walking none and striking out seven.
“I felt it was definitely his best game because he was very aggressive and he threw strikes and he stayed after the hitter and he definitely followed his game plan and he was very good,” Manuel said. “And since he’s been here in Philadelphia, I can definitely say that he’s gutty and he’s kind of a bulldog on the mound. And I like that part about him.”
Blanton is 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA in three career starts against the Dodgers, but he’ll hope to overcome a history of struggles against Ramirez. Los Angeles’ left fielder, who’s 9-for-20 (.450) with three home runs and eight RBIs this postseason, is 14-for-25 (.560) lifetime off Blanton, including 6-for-13 with a home run and six RBIs against him in 2008.
The Phillies’ biggest bat, meanwhile, finally showed signs of breaking out of his slump on Sunday. After starting the playoffs 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts in his first six games, Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard went 2-for-4 with a double in Game 3.