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Red Sox Lowe-ball A's in ninth
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10/07/2003  2:23 AM ET 
Red Sox Lowe-ball A's in ninth
Right-hander saves game and season for Boston
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Derek Lowe is picked up by catcher Jason Varitek after he ended Game 5 with a strikeout. (Eric Risberg/AP)
OAKLAND -- He gave up the job two years ago. The case was all but closed on Derek Lowe's life as a closer after his emotionally taxing 2001 season.

Lowe certainly re-invented himself as a starter, winning 38 games in his first two years on the job.

But he went back to his old role Monday night in a wildly dramatic circumstance.

Save? Yeah, Lowe got that at Network Associates Coliseum. He also saved his team's season.

With the bases loaded and two outs and the Red Sox clinging tightly to a 4-3 lead in Game 5 of this Division Series, Lowe punched out Terrence Long looking on a nasty sinker.

That was how the Red Sox were able to move on to the American League Championship Series, where they play the Yankees.

Only when Lowe executed the final three outs of the game could the Red Sox proudly say that they had become the fourth team in the nine-year history of the Division Series to rally back from an 0-2 series deficit.

"The execution of that last pitch was the best feeling I could ever experience as a catcher," said Boston's Jason Varitek, who has caught Lowe for the last nine years, dating back to their days in the Mariners' farm system.

So what did Varitek call for on that final pitch?

"You had to go with the old, trusty sinker," Lowe said. "He said, 'Throw me the two-seam lockup,' which is the two-seamer inside. I said, 'Absolutely.'

    Derek Lowe   /   P
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 205
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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"We kind of looked at each other. I told myself, 'I've thrown this pitch a million times. Trust it, throw it through the target.'


Scott Williamson opened the ninth inning by walking the first two batters. Then, Lowe came trotting out of the 'pen, just as he did so many times during his four years as a reliever, the last two of which consisted of last-call duties.

But he's a more confident man now than he was then. No-hitters will do that to a guy. So will a 21-8 season and a third-place finish for the American League Cy Young award.

And so will the adversity he faced this year, which called for him to stare at a 6.53 ERA in early May and turn that mess into a 17-win season.

"Derek's whole season has sort of mirrored this team," Sox GM Theo Epstein said. "He went through some adversity, found himself in midseason, and finished strong."

Where pressure used to be able to swallow Lowe up, now it brings out his nastiest stuff.

Sure, Lowe was the losing pitcher in Game 1. That was another night he returned to his old job, coming on in the 11th and losing the game in the 12th when Ramon Hernandez shocked everyone with a two-out bunt with the bases loaded.

"The execution of that last pitch was the best feeling I could ever experience as a catcher."
-- Jason Varitek

There were some whispers after that. How would Lowe respond to that rough outing? He responded with seven brilliant innings in Game 3, and on two days' rest no less. That night, Lowe got the no-decision and the Red Sox won the game on Trot Nixon's walk-off homer in the 11th.

As for Game 5, this was going to be Pedro Martinez's night. And it was. For seven innings.

After Alan Embree and Mike Timlin navigated the Sox through the eighth, Lowe put his team's ALCS hopes on his shoulders.

Out number one came on a sacrifice bunt by Hernandez. Out number two was a called third strike that froze pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse. Lowe walked Chris Singleton to put a man on every base, and truly bring tension to a head.

But Lowe had an approach on Long, and he stuck with it.

"They gave their hand away by taking so many pitches away," said Lowe. "That tells you as a pitcher that they don't have any regard for the inside part of the plate. You can't look for balls on both sides of the plate. They kept taking balls away, which led to opening up the inner half."

Lowe carved up that inner third on a nasty offering, finishing off an epic series.

Nobody has seen more of Lowe's sinkers up close than Varitek. So who better to critique the offering that put the Sox into the next round?

"It was a front-door sinker," said Varitek. "And it dropped about a foot."

And undoubtedly raised the decibel level a lot more than that in living rooms all around New England.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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