"I have no idea," Lowe said of his future availability. "I've never gone through anything like this. I'm a first-timer. And I only feel it when I pitch. You can ask me tomorrow how I feel and it'll be fine, because I'll only know when I throw batting practice.
Referred pain, however, will be felt all the way to the Dodgers front office, where with every injury comes a heightened urgency to acquire a pitcher before next week's trade deadline.
It doesn't look like Randy Wolf will be riding to the rescue any time soon, either. In his Wednesday night Class A rehab assignment from a shoulder impingement, he was whacked for three runs (two homers) on six hits in four innings. Another rehab start is almost a certainty. Earlier in the day, Hong-Chih Kuo underwent a fourth elbow operation and figures to be lost for the year.
Counting Kuo and Wolf, there are five Dodgers pitchers on the disabled list, topped by Jason Schmidt, whose absence pretty much set the dominoes in motion. And that doesn't count the week that Takashi Saito has been sidelined, which put the kind of severe strain on a bullpen that would lead a manager to relieve with his Opening Day starter.
Lowe, winless since June 22, was available to relieve Sunday because he had made his shortest and least effective start of the year on Thursday night, allowing eight earned runs in three innings. He said he started warming up too quickly for that Sunday relief appearance, only the second time out of the bullpen since 2001 for the former Red Sox closer. He strained the leg before his 1-2-3 inning and it hurt on every warm-up Wednesday night.
He made it through four-plus innings, allowing only a third-inning homer to Eric Munson. He was able to hold it together on the mound, but the wheels came off when he tried to run the bases.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Lowe lined what appeared to be a single to right field and started to jog to first base. Right fielder Luke Scott took the ball on one hop and fired to first base. Lowe tried to accelerate and wound up with the worst of both worlds -- he further aggravated the injury and was thrown out.
The final straw?
"It was a straw," Lowe said. "An embarrassing straw. I knew I was going slow. I tried to kick it into -- not second gear -- but one and a half gears and it wasn't working."
Lowe grimaced on the first two pitches to Jason Lane to open the fifth and when Lane lined a sharp single, Lowe let out an expletive that could be heard throughout Minute Maid Park, bringing out manager Grady Little and trainer Stan Johnston. After a brief discussion, Lowe left the game, slamming his glove against the dugout wall en route to the clubhouse.
"I was doing no one justice pitching through something like that," said Lowe, who has never missed a start because of injury since leaving the bullpen in 2002. "It's irritating the way I hurt it, out of the bullpen. Obviously, it's my fault. I didn't know how I was going to be used and maybe I wasn't stretched as much as I should have been. They said to get up and I got on the mound and started throwing, without enough time to stretch."
D.J. Houlton took over for Lowe, kept the Astros off the board for two innings and Jeff Kent got the Dodgers even with a towering solo home run in the top of the seventh, his 15th and second in two games. Kent went 7-for-11 in the series against his former team.
But Houlton served up the game-winning solo homer to Carlos Lee leading off the bottom of the seventh inning. Houlton also got the Sunday loss and the bullpen has suffered the last four losses. The Dodgers lost two of the three games with the Astros, three of their last four and the only starter other than Brad Penny to win a game in the last 10 is Chad Billingsley, whose complete game seemingly eased the club's pitching crisis.
"Chad got us back in line," said Lowe. "This puts us back behind the 8-ball."