Knowing that 2004 could be stuck in some New York Yankees fans' minds, Derek Lowe had some interest in how he might be received wearing pinstripes in the Bronx. The man who played a huge part in ending the Curse of the Bambino, now was taking the same path as Babe Ruth did -- from Boston to New York -- though, for Lowe there were stops in between.
When he came in to start the sixth inning, Lowe listened to the crowd.
"Derek, I love you," Lowe said of what he heard the fans say. "I don't know if it is for me or for Jeter."
Lowe is already one of the best quotes on the team, dropping one-liners as adeptly as he threw his sinker/slider combination on Monday night to pick up a four-inning save while not allowing a run. The fans were really rather indifferent to Lowe's first appearance, as the 39-year-old wore A.J. Burnett's No. 34 and retired a tough Rangers lineup as if he were in his heyday. He allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out four among his 12 outs.
Lowe was released by the Cleveland Indians because, in his words, his pitches were leaving his hand as if they were "mashed potatoes."
"A way-overpaid batting practice pitcher," Lowe said of himself. He is pocketing $15 million this year.
Before 2009, Lowe was the Yankees' second choice behind Burnett as the Robin to CC Sabathia's Batman. He went to the Atlanta Braves and then the Indians before landing with the Yankees the other day after vowing to return only if he could contribute. If Monday is an indication, he may help the Yankees a lot. Even if his pitches were in the low-80s in the ninth.
"I think I was throwing below the speed limit the last inning," Lowe said.
Lowe, a former closer, picked up his first save since the 2003 American League Division Series when he ended Game 5 against the Oakland A's to seal a Red Sox rally from two games down to a 3-2 series win. He hadn't picked up a regular-season save in more than 11 years, which is the longest streak since Darren Oliver took 15 years between saves.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say I won't sleep with a smile on my face," Lowe said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks Lowe will need a couple of days before he can go out there again. But after Monday, Lowe could become an important member of the Yankees.
Before Lowe pitched so well, David Phelps threw five quality innings in his start in place of the injured Sabathia. Phelps allowed two runs, but, aided by two pickoffs, looked very good. He has now made four starts and has a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings. It was the first time he had gone five innings in a start.