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Lowe named NL Pitcher of the Month

Lowe named NL Pitcher of the Month

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LOS ANGELES -- Derek Lowe was in a deep funk entering his Aug. 4 start against the Marlins.

Expected to be one of the Dodgers' most consistent pitchers, Lowe had permitted 36 runs in his previous 37 innings over his past six starts. The right-hander turned his season around against the Fish, earning the victory after tossing seven innings of one-run ball.

"I think this was a hump game for him," L.A. pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "We've seen bits and pieces the last three games. Tonight, he stayed with it and never got out of it."

Benefiting from terrific defense by shortstop Rafael Furcal and Julio Lugo, Lowe permitted fewer than three runs for the first time since July 3.

"The defense was tremendous," said Lowe. "I just tried not to mess it up."

The victory also kick-started a run that yielded a 4-1 record and a 1.69 ERA over six August games (five starts).

For his efforts, Lowe earned the NL Pitcher of the Month Award, besting several nominees, including Dodgers teammate Chad Billingsley (3-0, 1.50 ERA), Roger Clemens (4-0, 2.54 ERA) and the Marlins' Joe Borowski (1-0, 10 saves). This was the second time Lowe won the award, matching the honor he earned as a member of the Red Sox in April 2002, a year in which he won a career-best 21 games.

"I'd say the only reason why it's gratifying for me to get it in August is because I had a horrendous July," Lowe said. "I really struggled throughout the month, and to be able to turn it around in one month -- anytime you can get an award, no matter how small it is, you've done something right."

Lowe says he doesn't know exactly why he turned it around.

"The only thing I can think of is that I've been fortunate to be a part of a lot of pennant races," Lowe said. "Those games in August aren't necessarily more meaningful, but intensity-wise, maybe focus -- I really don't know. I wish I could duplicate that every single month."

Lowe's August performance also helped the Dodgers -- 53-55 and three back of the NL West lead on Aug. 4 -- take a two-game advantage and a 73-64 record into Tuesday's action.

"We're in the last six weeks of the season -- we're about wins," Lowe said.

Relying less on his cutter and keeping a better focus, Lowe started coaxing more ground balls. A ground-ball machine, the right-hander does his best work when hitters bounce three hoppers into the grass. In July, he had one of his lowest ground-ball/fly-ball rates of the season (3.00).

Helped by better control, the rate jumped to 3.45 in August -- helping Lowe thrive.

Five days after the Marlins' start, Lowe tossed 12 ground-ball outs and came within one out of a complete game against the Rockies, permitting three runs over 8 2/3 innings.

"It was a well-pitched game," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "It was unbelievable how he was able to maintain [his steady performance]."

Lowe arguably tossed his best start of the season against the Marlins in his next outing. Over seven innings, Lowe tossed 17 ground-ball outs, permitting just two fly balls, four hits and one run.

"Lowe's been very good the last several outings, and tonight was no different," Little said of that start. "He took us deep into the ballgame when we needed him to."

Lowe went deep again in his next start, carrying a shutout into the ninth inning and earning the win against the NL West-rival Giants.

The right-hander, though, delivered one of the gutsiest performances of the season in his last August appearance.

Just three days after Chad Tracy smashed a line drive off Lowe's left (non-pitching) wrist in a shortened start against Arizona, the right-hander was pushed into emergency relief in the 14th inning.

With his left wrist still several different colors, Lowe gutted out 21 pitches and three innings of scoreless ball, helping the Dodgers defeat the Reds, 6-5.

"He ... gave us the performance we needed," Little said.

Just like the right-hander did the rest of the month.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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