Friday morning Braves thoughts

Bill Shanks has the morning thoughts, and it's all about Derek Lowe.

The Mets are coming to town, and they are struggling. They've lost six in a row and are now 71-79. Their quest for a .500 season is losing steam, and the manager Terry Collins is saying they have given up.

Welcome to Atlanta, boys!

Derek Lowe goes for the Braves tonight at Turner Field. He had three pretty decent games at the end of August (1.50 ERA), but Lowe's ERA in the last two starts is 7.36. So tonight, against a struggling team, Lowe needs to do well.

Amazingly, Lowe has only pitched seven innings in three starts this season, and all of those starts were his longest appearances. He has not pitched more than seven innings in a single start this season.

Considering he used to be a pretty good innings-eater, that's incredible.

You never know what you're going to get from Derek. He can pitch well, and then he can turn around and look like Mark Redman or Albie Lopez - two pillars of excellence in the history of Atlanta Braves baseball (sarcasm).

But now, with the playoffs only a few weeks away, fans are questioning whether Lowe should even be in the playoff rotation. He's been there before, winning the World Series for the Red Sox. And last year he was pretty good down the stretch and even against the Giants.

This is Lowe's worst season of the three he's been in Atlanta. At least in the first two seasons you could point to the fact Lowe was winning ballgames, but not this year. He's only 9-14, and for a pitcher making $15 million a season, that's not going to endear you to fans.

So he needs to do well tonight to make people realize he can be effective and can do well in the playoffs.

By the way, here are Lowe's numbers against the Brewers and Diamondbacks, the two teams Atlanta may face in round one.

vs. MILW: 0-1, 1GS, 1.50, 6IP, 1ER, 3BB, 7K
vs. ARIZ: 1-0, 1GS, 0.00, 5IP, 0ER, 2BB, 7K

I would think the Braves may keep Lowe for game three of the series, which would be in Atlanta. That would mean Brandon Beachy would pitch game two, but you wouldn't want to put a rookie in a situation if you were down 0-2 to put the entire season on him. So I would guess Lowe would get game three.

But if he struggles again tonight, and in his last two starts before the end of the regular season, would Atlanta consider using Mike Minor? Of course, this is going on the assumption that Tommy Hanson won't be available. But still, it's something to consider.

Lowe can make that a moot point with a good end to his season. If not, fans may want him to go into the Barry Zito playoff protection program instead.



Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.


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