Deserving Lowe tabbed for Game 1
Former World Series hero takes on Mets in opener of NLDS
SAN FRANCISCO -- Nobody in the Dodgers clubhouse has the postseason experience of Greg Maddux, but the veteran right-hander wasn't expecting new best friend Derek Lowe to seek any advice before taking on the Game 1 starting assignment on Wednesday in the National League Division Series against the Mets.
"He pitched a World Series clincher," Maddux said of Lowe. "I should be asking advice from him."
Dodgers manager Grady Little believes Lowe is polished enough to handle the task, but Lowe remembers how he learned to be a prime-time pitcher.
"I never started a Game 1 because that was Pedro's job," Lowe said of Pedro Martinez, who left the Red Sox for the Mets after the 2004 season but will miss this postseason with a torn left calf. "He helped my career immensely. I see a great pitcher who's injured, and to that extent, it's sad to see. The way I feel about this isn't a Dodgers-Mets thing, it's a personal thing. It's sad to see that he's not a part of it."
That said, Lowe will leave the crying towel in the subway. He said that one of the things he learned about any postseason start is how to keep the emotions in check, which, for an emotional guy like Lowe, can be as tough as the Mets lineup.
"I draw from my past experience, so I know [that] in playoff baseball, the starting pitcher that can settle down the fastest has the best chance for success," he said. "I realize the excitement level is up there. You feel like everything's going 100 mph."
Maddux said that there is one big difference between starting a Game 1 and starting any other game in a postseason series.
"The media before the game," he said. "That's the only difference."
Lowe finished the regular season 16-8 with a 3.63 ERA, tied for the league lead in wins and ninth in ERA. He has never started a game at Shea Stadium for the Dodgers or Red Sox, but he's made three relief appearances there, and he knows what to expect.
"It's going to be exciting, for sure," he said. "The New York crowd, they really get behind their team in the other park (Yankee Stadium), and I've seen from the dugout how they are at Shea. It won't be any different than what they throw at us at Yankee Stadium. They're very loud, very hostile. It's a unique place to play."
Lowe started one game against the Mets this season, at Dodger Stadium on June 6, and he beat Martinez, 8-5. Lowe allowed two runs in six innings, but the game will be better remembered as the first save -- and final appearance -- of the year for Eric Gagne.
The Dodgers have come a long way since then, as has Lowe. He went into that game 4-3, and the four walks he issued that night were an indicator that he still wasn't on track. In fact, he lost his next three starts while tinkering with his pitch selection.
He went back to relying on his trademark sinker right around the time, coincidentally, that the Dodgers went on a historic 17-1 roll. Lowe was right there statistically with the Cy Young Award candidates over the final two months of the season, going 8-1 and earning NL Pitcher of the Month honors.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.