After scoring with relative ease through the early part of the schedule, the Colorado Rockies’ offense stumbled last time out.
Lowe, who has looked shaky in his first two starts of the season, seeks to continue his mound dominance over the Rockies in the opener of a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday night.
Colorado (5-4) boasted one of baseball’s top offenses in 2009, ranking second in the NL in runs (804), homers (190), on-base percentage (.343) and slugging percentage (.441). The Rockies had carried that success into the early portion of 2010, posting a .354 OBP while plating at least four runs in each of the first eight games.
That strong start came to an abrupt end Thursday in a 5-0 loss to the Mets. Colorado, the only team not to be blanked at home last season, combined for 17 runs and 22 hits in winning the first two games of the series before managing a season-low five hits in the finale.
“We had some problems,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “We get five hits and two of them left the infield. Very difficult to win with all of that.”
Colorado could face further problems with Lowe (2-0, 4.50 ERA) on the hill. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in his last four starts against the Rockies, yielding 16 hits and five walks over 28 1/3 innings.
The sinkerballer has shut down two of Colorado’s top hitters, limiting Brad Hawpe(notes) to one hit in 12 at-bats since 2008, and holding Troy Tulowitzki(notes) to a .235 batting average. Hawpe, who has been slowed by a left quadriceps strain, is batting .333 with two homers this season, while Tulowitzki is hitting only .243.
Lowe has opened this season having won each of his first two starts for the first time in his career, but neither was a thing of beauty.
After allowing five runs and five hits - including two homers - in six innings of a 16-5 win over Chicago April 5, Lowe struggled with his control by walking a career-high seven in Saturday’s 7-2 win in San Francisco.
The Braves (5-4), who split eight games against the Rockies last season, are returning to Atlanta after beating San Diego 6-2 on Thursday to take two of three at Petco Park.
Jason Heyward(notes) and Marin Prado continued their strong starts. Heyward drove in two with a pair of doubles and is batting .438 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last five contests. Prado, who homered, has hit safely in all nine games this season, going 17 for 37 with eight runs.
“He’s a good athlete and he has his head on straight,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Heyward. “He hits the ball real good the other way.”
They will next face Jason Hammel(notes) (0-0, 5.14), who allowed four runs - all in the fourth inning - and six hits in seven innings of a 5-4, 14-inning loss to San Diego on Saturday in his season debut.
Hammel made two starts against the Braves in 2009, and neither went well. The right-hander gave up six runs - three earned - and 10 hits in six innings of an 8-1 loss in Atlanta on May 19, and yielded five runs and nine hits in three innings of an 8-7 home win July 12.