Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Friends In Lowe Places

The Texas Rangers came to town for a 4-game series last night.  Like all teams named Rangers, no matter what the sport, no matter what the country, especially if they wear blue shirts -- baseball in Dallas, hockey in New York, soccer in Glasgow -- these Rangers suck.

The only Ranger who wears a blue shirt and doesn't suck is the Lone Ranger. Except for the one Klinton Spilsbury played in the 1981 abomination The Legend of the Lone Ranger. And the new film version planned for next year has Armie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss Twins in The Social Network) as a Lone Ranger dressed in black, and Johnny Depp as a ghostly-looking Tonto. I have no confidence in this version.

Anyway... The Texas Rangers scored a run in the top of the 1st and another in the top of the 2nd off David Phelps, who was starting in place of the injured CC Sabathia. But in the bottom of the 3rd, the Yanks scored 5 runs, including a grand slam by Nick Swisher -- his 15th home run of the season and the 200th of his career. Eric Chavez added his 13th homer in the 6th, and 2 more runs were scored in the 7th.

They chased Ryan Dempster (6-6), the former Chicago Cub and Florida Marlin ace who was supposed to make the difference for the Rangers this season. So far, he hasn't.

Phelps (3-3) went 5 innings. In came Derek Lowe, of the 1997-2004 Red Sox that revitalized the franchise (with help from steroids), the man who became the 1st man ever to win the clinching games of a Division Series, a League Championship Series, and a World Series in the same season. (Andy Pettitte not only joined him, but became the 1st man to start and win such games.)

Paul Sullivan of the blog Sully Baseball did a piece on Lowe earlier this season, when he was doing well with the Cleveland Indians, comparing how he felt about Lowe to a relationship with an annoying ex-girlfriend: The highs kept him in, but the lows drove him bananas.

It could be worse: With Randy Velarde, Ruben Sierra, Javier Vazquez and Scott Proctor, I've seen the return of exes who never should have had a 1st go-around. (Please, God, never let Brian Cashman bring back Kyle Farnsworth. That was an abusive relationship, and I just may return the abuse if it happens!)

After seeing such ex-Red Sox as Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon and -- you forgot he was briefly with the Red Sox, didn't you? -- Jose Canseco not only play, but win World Series, with the Yankees, it shouldn't be too shocking to see Derek Lowe in Pinstripes -- the Number 32 he wore with the Sox has been retired for Elston Howard, so he got the Number 34 last worn by A.J. Burnett.

But Lowe is 39. He was a big reason why the Atlanta Braves, last season, went from serious contenders for the National League East title to missing the Playoffs completely. And while he got off to a good start with Cleveland this season, he had fallen apart, and been released. That's why he was available after the trading deadline in the first place. Surely, he can't have had much left?

Last night, Derek Lowe pitched 4 innings. He allowed no runs, 2 hits, no walks, notching 4 strikeouts. He threw 44 pitches (a very efficient average of 11 an inning) for 33 strikes. It was his 1st save in over a year.

Yankees 8, Rangers 2. With the win, the Yankees remain 5 games ahead of the surging Tampa Bay Rays (who've now won 7 straight) in the American League East, and the Magic Number to clinch the Division drops to 42. Even more important, with the win, the Yankees move a half-game ahead of the Rangers -- even in the loss column -- in the race for best record in the AL, and thus for the top seed and home-field advantage in both rounds of the AL Playoffs. (Unlike Jim Mora Sr., we can talk about Playoffs.)

After the game, Lowe said he heard someone yell, "We love you, Derek!" But he also said he wasn't sure if it was meant for him or for some other guy named Derek. (Jeter doubled and drove in a run last night. His 24th double of the season. He's now hitting .318. Did somebody say he was washed up and not worth big money?)

The series continues tonight, Hiroki Kuroda against Matt Harrison.

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