The Indians were looking to add to the back end of the rotation after the season ended. They made their first move rather quickly. On October 31st, just a week after the World Series, GM Chris Antonetti acquired a 38-year old veteran who was coming off the worst year of the career where he lost 17 games and collapsed in September. The guy was due $15 million in 2012, the last year of his deal. Nobody talked about the move, despite the fact that the Atlanta Braves picked up $10 million of the salary due.
Well how has Derek Lowe looked out thus far, Tribe fans?
During yesterday afternoon’s tilt with the last place Minnesota Twins, Lowe pitched another absolute gem. The veteran sinker-baller delivered a six-hit complete game shutout for his sixth win on the season. Using his sinker almost exclusively, Lowe delivered a whopping 22 groundball outs, including four double-play balls that killed any chances of a Twins rally.
“He was a ground-ball machine the whole day,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “I don’t keep track of every game I’ve ever watched or anything like that, but I don’t think I’ve seen too many complete-game shutouts without a strikeout. That’s rare to see. He was great. Every time he needed a pitch, he got it.”
The whole Lowe phenomenon is amazing, but shouldn’t be that unexpected. While none of us thought he would be this good, his track record has been very good for 14 seasons. He had won double digit games in each of the nine seasons before his 2011 aberation and has a career ERA under four. The guy knows how to pitch. Pure and simple. And in 2012, he looks like the guy who won 21 games in 2002.
“It’s been a really gratifying start,” said Lowe. “Coming into the season, there were so many questions about ‘Are you done? Are you going to retire? Blah, blah.’ So I worked my tail off, not just to prove people wrong, but to get myself back to where I knew I should be.”
The offense in the meantime had a nice and easy day against Twins righty Jason Marquis. The 12-year veteran reminds me of a guy who would have been in the Tribe rotation in the 1980′s. His stuff is average at best and he just keeps hanging around as a fifth starter and innings eater. The Wahoo attack jumped all over him and showed little mercy.
In the second inning, Casey Kotchman came through with a two-out RBI single which scored Carlos Santana, who opened the frame with a double but hadn’t advanced. It was Kotchman’s third big hit in the last two games. An inning later, Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Shin-Soo Choo, who like Santana an inning earlier, led off with a double. In the fourth, they wasted a golden opportunity when Michael Brantley, moved into the five spot with Travis Hafner getting the day off, tripled to lead off the inning. Yet he never moved and was stranded by Jose Lopez, Johnny Damon, and Lou Marson.
It was only a matter of time before they would get to Marquis and knock him out for good.
The fifth inning is where the Tribe flexed their muscles. Newly minted leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo started things with an opposite field home run. It was the fourth consecutive inning the Indians led off with an extra-base hit. It hasn’t happened since 2005. After Jason Kipnis struck out, Cabrera got Marquis for a solo homer of his own, his fourth on the year. Before the Twins knew what had hit them, Santana was crushing another Marquis pitch out into the right field seats.
At 5-0, Lowe cruised the rest of the way to his first complete game shutout in seven years. Even more incredibly, he did so without striking out a single batter. That’s the first time that has happened in the majors since 2002.
It certainly helps facing a Minnesota Twins lineup that hardly resembles their division winning teams of the last decade. Their five through nine yesterday were Brian Dozier, Chris Parmalee, Erik Komatsu, Alexi Casilla, and Jamey Carroll. What has happened to this team so quickly? The good news is that the Indians swept the two game series from the Twins and get to play them 17 more times this season.
Yesterday’s win was the Tribe’s 10th in their last 11 games against the Twins. It was huge for them to get some momentum back after enduring their first three game losing streak over the weekend in Boston.
With the Twins out of the way, the first place Indians will come how for another mini-two-game series with Eric Wedge and his Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately, the Wahoos have to face former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez (3-2, 2.29 ERA) tomorrow night. They will counter with the enigma that is Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 5.18 ERA).
Image via Associated Press