Just a few short weeks ago, Atlanta Braves’ starting pitcher, Derek Lowe, was struggling. On Monday night, Lowe pitched eight shutout innings, struck out a career high 12 batters, reached a career milestone of 1,500 strikeouts, and earned his 13th victory of the season. What’s changed?

During what had to be his toughest stretch as a Braves’ pitcher, Derek Lowe could not stop the bleeding, and the losses continued to mount when his spot in the rotation presented itself. Fortunately for the Braves and for Derek Lowe, manager Bobby Cox decided at the end of the last season to manage one more. The experience of Bobby Cox allowed him to realize that Derek was exhausted. As a result, Bobby sat Lowe on the bench and brought in Kenshin Kawakami.

This was not a punishment, as if to say, “Derek, your pitching stinks so bad lately, I am going to sit you and put in Kawakami.” Instead, it was a move to give Derek a little extra rest. Although Kawakami was not able to earn a win, the move by Bobby to sit Derek Lowe would eventually pay off very well.

In his last two starts, Derek has been brilliant. His pitches and his location have been masterful. As a result, the crafty veteran has victories in his last two starts, and it appears that he is ready to battle down the stretch for a division title.

Before pitching eight strong innings Monday night, Lowe was previously 0-3 with an ERA of 6.11 in his last three starts versus the Washington Nationals. Those who witnessed the game on Monday night surely noticed that the previously bad Derek Lowe had been replaced with the Derek Lowe of old.

Midway through the game, just after Derek Lowe had earned his 1,500 strike out of his career, he was greeted with a standing ovation from the small crowd of 18,647. He received the same ovation when he exited the field midway through the eighth inning. Somehow, Braves fans knew that Bobby would pull him, and they gave him a rousing cheer for a job well done.

With only 17 games remaining, perhaps Bobby needs to rest Tim Hudson for one game? Hudson has lost his last three games, and the Braves can ill afford to lose games when he takes the mound. The Braves are going to need solid pitching down the stretch if they hope to fulfill their dreams of winning the division, and perhaps a World Series ring, in honor of Bobby Cox.

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