The Atlanta Braves can now only hope Derek Lowe can return to his September 2010 form after the 38-year-old pitcher returned to his July 2011 self Monday. The Philadelphia Phillies roughed him up for seven runs – five earned – over five innings to take the first game of an important series 9-0.
It had seemed that Lowe was starting build momentum after his three previous starts, in which he gave up three runs in 18 innings, but he had trouble leaving pitches up, resulting in the Phillies pounding out eight hits on him.
“It just seemed like it didn’t happen. It was just a unforgettable game in every aspect. You can say that they whipped our tails," Lowe said.
Hunter Pence damaged Lowe's outing the most, starting with a two-run single in the bottom of the first.
Lowe walked John Mayberry, Jr. to start the fourth inning and got Carlos Ruiz to ground to Alex Gonzalez, who booted a sure double play ball. Though the next two batters were sat down, Shane Victorino slapped a two-run single by Martin Prado at third.
The fifth inning put the icing on the cake when Lowe gave up a one-out triple to Chase Utley. The Braves then intentionally walked Ryan Howard to set up a double play, but Pence slapped an RBI-double down the right field line. After a walk to Mayberry walk, Ruiz drove a two-run single to center.
Cliff Lee, on the other hand, had a performance that was the polar opposite of Lowe's. The Cy Young candidate notched his 16th win with a five-hit shutout, his sixth of the season. At one point, Lee sat down 16 straight Braves batters. Out of the five hits he surrendered, none went for extra bases and only Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann managed singles that reached the outfield.
"He can pretty much put any of his pitches wherever he wants, whenever he wants," Dan Uggla said. "There’s no real pattern that you can see from him, so you’ve just got to pretty much be ready for his fastball and make the adjustment to anything else."
The win was Lee's first against the Braves. He had previously gone 0-3 with a 5.60 ERA in five career starts against Atlanta.
If a bright spot can be found for Atlanta for the night, it would be that Peter Moylan made his first appearance since April 14. After sitting out nearly five months due to back surgery, Moylan threw a perfect seventh inning and struck out Ruiz to end the inning.
"You obviously want it to be in a game the Braves won, but for me personally, this could have been the seventh game of the World Series with the adrenaline I had going. It’s nice to get through an inning and feel okay," Moylan said.
The loss drops Atlanta 8.5 games behind the Phillies in the division. The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals both won their games to climb to 8.5 games out of the Wild Card lead.
Atlanta will look to Tim Hudson (14-8, 3.05 ERA) for game two against Rookie of the Year candidate Vance Worley (10-1, 2.85 ERA).
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