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Lowe battles through early deficit

Lowe battles through early deficit

CHICAGO -- Derek Lowe had to be muttering to himself.

The Dodgers right-hander missed his location on a pitch to Mark DeRosa, not by a lot but enough for the Cubs second baseman to just hit it into the right-field bleachers.

A brisk wind blowing from left to right blew the ball toward the foul pole but not far enough as it landed just fair.

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"You don't see too many home runs hit where that one was hit," said Dodgers pitcher Greg Maddux, who used to pitch for the Cubs. "I guess you can tip your hat to [DeRosa] a little bit. It's kind of weird that it didn't blow foul."

The homer gave the Cubs an early 2-0 lead, but Lowe tried to keep the right frame of mind.

"It's still early," he said. "You've got to believe in your offense, that they are going to come around."

NLDS History
Teams that have taken 1-0 leads have won 23 of 26 Division Series in the Wild Card era. Only the 1999 Braves lost Game 1 at home and won the series.
Won Game 1: 23-3
Won Game 1 on road: 12-1
Won Game 1 at home: 11-2

They did just that as they hit three homers of their own en route to a 7-2 win over the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Lowe would shut the Cubs down before departing after six innings, but it was anything but easy for him.

"I didn't have a one-two-three inning," said Lowe, who allowed seven hits and a walk. "There's constantly guys on base, and they did a good job of working the count and getting to hitter counts."

That was the case in the sixth when, with a 4-2 lead, he allowed a leadoff double to Aramis Ramirez and then went 2-0 on Geovany Soto.

Lowe was able to regroup quickly as he got two called strikes before getting Soto to wave at a slider for the strikeout.

"To be able to get that out, for me, kind of kept the momentum on our side," said Lowe, who went on to retire Jim Edmonds and DeRosa to end the inning.

"He's tough," DeRosa said. "He gives you the mirage of it being a strike and then it sinks out of the zone. He's one of the those guys you have to go the other way with and not get tempted by that sinker in. You saw tonight, you get tempted by it and next thing you know, you ground out to short. Offensively, we just have to swing the bats better."

That's tough to do against a guy like Lowe when he has his sinker and slider working. His pitches may not have been at their best, but whatever he lacked in stuff he made up for with his competitiveness.

"He's got that preparation look in his eye, very focused early on," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He just battles you."

Lowe was money for the Dodgers down the stretch, as they overtook the D-backs to claim the NL West crown. In his final 10 starts of the year, he was 6-1 with a 1.27 ERA, which includes a 3-0 mark and 0.59 ERA in five September outings.

"Even after the home run, he kept his composure and made quality pitch after quality pitch," catcher Russell Martin said. "That's the way he's been throwing the last 10 to 12 starts."

"I've faced him before and didn't really like him too much," said third baseman Casey Blake. "He's tough on the hitters, he's got that sinker/slider and he's a competitor."

One of the reasons Lowe drew the start in Game 1 instead of Chad Billingsley was the fact that Torre felt he was better suited to come back on short rest if need be for Game 4 on Sunday.

"We've already discussed that," Lowe said referring to Torre. "And I think we've already made a decision. But there's no sense in talking about it right now. The decision has already been made. I'll leave it up to Joe to tell everybody."

Torre wasn't saying on Wednesday, but the expectation is that Lowe will get the ball in Game 4. He has won four straight postseason games and is 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last six postseason appearances.

Lowe earned his reputation as a good postseason pitcher with the Red Sox in 2004, when he helped his club overcome a three games to none deficit against Torre's Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Lowe started Game 7 of the ALCS on two days' rest and allowed just one hit over six innings and then won Game 4 in Boston's sweep of the Cardinals in the World Series.

"I watched it for a number of years when he was with the Red Sox," Torre said. "But tonight was huge. When you have a young club and you come into a foreign ballpark, just to get off to a start like this and give us an opportunity to win, just keeping the score 2-0 is as important a start as he's had for us."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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