PHILADELPHIA – If Derek Lowe had been this dominant last October, the Philadelphia Phillies might not be World Series champions.
Lowe pitched eight superb innings, three Braves homered off Brett Myers, and Atlanta beat the defending champs 4-1 in the major league opener Sunday night.
Lowe (1-0) allowed two hits, no walks, struck out four and the sinker baller got 13 groundouts. Mike Gonzalez pitched out of trouble in the ninth to secure the win.
The Phillies had better luck against Lowe when he pitched for Los Angeles in the NL championship series. They beat him in Game 1 of the NLCS and he had a no-decision in the Dodgers’ loss in Game 4.
“Having just played them, it was easy to watch video to see what you did last time,” Lowe said. “They’re an extremely good hitting team. I was able to get ahead in the count. I just wanted to be consistent.”
Brian McCann hit a two-run homer, Jeff Francoeur had a solo shot and Jordan Schafer went deep in his first career at-bat for the Braves.
Once Lowe came out, the Phillies rallied. Pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett started the ninth with a double and scored on Jayson Werth’s one-out RBI single. After Gonzalez walked Chase Utley to bring up the tying run, the hard-throwing lefty struck out Ryan Howard looking and Raul Ibanez swinging to end it.
“He was awesome,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Lowe. “He really knows how to pitch.”
Atlanta gave Lowe a $60 million, four-year contract to anchor its revamped rotation, and the 35-year-old right-hander pitched like an ace in his debut with his new team. He gave the Braves the type of masterful effort they used to get from Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson.
“It’s nice to get Derek Lowe a win,” McCann said. “He had great stuff. It’s a lot better to catch him than hit against him.”
Myers (0-1) filled in for Cole Hamels, whose first start was pushed back because of minor elbow problems. Hamels, the NLCS and World Series MVP, is expected to pitch at Colorado on Friday.
The Phillies celebrated the franchise’s second World Series title during an hour-long ceremony before the game. Led by the Phanatic and veteran pitcher Jamie Moyer, players entered the field from Ashburn Alley behind the stands in left-center field. They walked past adoring fans in the aisles, down stairs and onto a red carpet that stretched from the warning track to the infield.
Then manager Charlie Manuel raised the 2008 championship flag on the concourse behind the brick batter’s eye. After a giant American flag was unfurled in the outfield, players were introduced to rousing ovations. Fans who used to boo Manuel lustily chanted “Charlie, Charlie” when the lovable skipper jogged out.
Even their uniforms had a special look only for this game. All the red lettering and numbers were trimmed in gold.