For all the crap we've given him about being overpaid and only getting DerekLoweWins, Derek Lowe has always had the ability to put it all together and dominate. He's been an excellent pitcher for much of his career, and has even thrown a no-hitter. In other words, there's a reason Frank Wren gave him all that money.
Today, Lowe took another baby step toward justifying that contract. In 8 masterful innings, he limited the Phillies to only 1 run, struck out 7, and gave up only 1 (intentional) walk. He faced the minimum in all but 2 of his innings, induced 2 double plays, and had barely any hard-hit balls against him (5 of the 6 hits were grounders or bunts).
The lone Phillies run scored in the third. With one out, the Phillies got 4 straight singles to drive in a run and load the bases. This was almost entirely just bad luck for Lowe, though, as the first 3 were seeing-eye grounders and the 4th was a bunt. Lowe got out of the mess by getting Chase Utley to bounce into a double play. The only other Phillies threat was in the 8th, when Lowe got Wilson Valdez to pop up to center with 2 men on. Lowe's final line: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 IBB, 7 K, 11/19 ground balls (58%), and a staggering 0.397 WPA.
The Braves scored first, but in anticlimactic fashion, when Chipper Jones hit into a double play to score Martin Prado. After that, Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick kept the Braves off balance, using the fact that the ball was not carrying to his advantage. The Braves hit 11 fly balls off of Kendrick, but none left the park. (One did come close, though... Troy Glaus hit a ball to lead off the second that looked like it was gone, but left fielder Raul Ibanez got enough glove on it to bring it inside the park for a double.) Kendrick's final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K, and a 0.297 WPA.
In the bottom of the 8th, Charlie Manuel brought in Jose Contreras. Nate McLouth led off the inning with a walk, and Melky Cabrera followed with a nice sacrifice to get Nate in scoring position. Contreras struck out Martin Prado and then intentionally walked Jason Heyward to pitch to Omar Infante.
Big mistake. Omar got behind 0-2 but worked the count full and slapped a ball just over Chase Utley's head to score the go-ahead run. It was a fantastic at-bat, and worthy of the man he was filling in for. (Chipper Jones left the game with an inflamed finger... he's day-to-day.) Billy Wagner finished off the sweep with a hitless ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Shane Victorino with a series of nasty pitches for the last out.
The Braves have now won 8 straight and are 2.5 games up in the division. Since May 17th, the Braves are 13-2 and the Phillies are 4-11. That's right: we've picked up 9 games in the standings out of 15 games played. That'll do!
An awesome stat and the Awards section after the jump...
Stat of the Game
Jose Contreras has given up only 2 runs all year. Both were game-winning runs scored by Nate McLouth. (The first was the walk-off-to-an-empty-dugout game.)
Lowe (stats above)
Omar-- 2/2, RBI, 0.311 WPA
McLouth-- 0/2, but he had 2 walks, scored the game-winning run, and had a 0.057 WPA
Wagner-- 1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.148 WPA
Contreras-- 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB (1 IBB), 1 K, -0.279 WPA
Chase Utley-- 0/4, bases-loaded GIDP, -0.261 WPA
MVP in a Losing Effort
Kendrick (stats above)
Infante's go-ahead single (0.293 WPA)
Utley's GIDP (-0.167 WPA)