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Derek Lowe up to his old tricks

BOSTON -- After walking to the mound to begin his warm-up tosses for the bottom of the first inning Thursday night, Derek Lowe turned to retrieve a ball from home plate umpire Jim Wolf but saw the throw sail well over his head. When Wolf reached into his pocket for another try, Lowe playfully spread his arms and legs to give the ump a large, comical target.

It was a light moment for the current Cleveland Indian and former Boston Red Sox right-hander. Then again, it’s all fun and games when you get to face the Red Sox these days.

In his second start at Fenway Park since leaving Boston after the 2004 season, Lowe severely outdueled counterpart Josh Beckett in an 8-3 victory over the reeling Sox. He allowed two runs on nine hits in six innings, a stark contrast to Beckett’s 2 1/3-inning, seven-run disaster, all in the wake of “Golf-Gate.”

Lowe did what he used to do at Fenway back in the day, inducing 18 ground-ball outs in a methodical manner. He also watched as Beckett left to a torrent of boos. To Lowe, that was a blast from the past, too.

"When you play here, you understand that's part of it," said Lowe, who won 70 games and saved 85 in his eight years with the Sox. "When you go out there and probably don't pitch the way you'd like, they're going to let you know about it.

“I’ve been there,” he added. “Until they have to stop the game. ... I was telling a couple of guys. I was closing in ’03 [actually 2001]. I blew a three-run game in, like, literally 30 seconds and it happened to be, they gave out my posters that night. Well, they turned into airplanes really fast. A 10-minute delay, stop the game, whole nine yards. I sat in the clubhouse until 2 o’clock and I would stick my head out to see if [the fans] were still there and they would be like, ‘I see you in there.' "

Lowe told the story like a grandfather in his rocker trying to get the little ones to laugh. And while Beckett served up a reminder as to what the Red Sox are dealing with today, Lowe is giving Cleveland a taste of what the Red Sox had years ago.

The 38-year-old right-hander is now 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA. He has just 13 strikeouts and 13 walks in 43 2/3 innings. But it almost doesn’t matter when he shows the veteran escapability he did on Thursday.

Lowe struck out Adrian Gonzalez to strand runners on the corners in the third. He left the bases loaded in the fourth. He allowed a run before leaving two men in scoring position in the fifth. A double play got him out of the sixth.

One man who has seen Lowe perform on this mound before was not surprised by the solid effort.

“It was great, getting all those ground balls,” said Indians left fielder and fellow 2004 world champion Johnny Damon. “Didn’t have great command in the strike zone tonight but Derek knows how to get the job done. Been around a little bit. He’s definitely a Red Sox for life for what he’s brought to this organization. ... Great pitcher, great player and I’m glad he’s still my teammate, again.”

Only two players from Boston’s ’04 World Series-winning team, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis, remain with the Red Sox. Because of that, the nostalgia has worn off a bit for Lowe.

“I enjoyed it,” he said of his second Fenway start since leaving. “It’s my second time but it’s been eight years and it’s a completely different team. So you don’t have that emotion where maybe three years ago I had because there were still a lot of guys there. This was just, you know, another team.”

That last line, as much as anything, spoke to the state of the Red Sox. Just another team. A perfect opponent if you’re looking to have a little fun.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.