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    Time for the Braves to shelve their 15-million-dollar man?

    Braves pitcher, Derek Lowe

    By Bud L. Ellis

    One year ago, with the pain of injuries and the pressure of a pennant race threatening to tear the Atlanta Braves apart at the seams, Derek Lowe mustered his years of experience and every ounce of his grit to help pull them into the National League playoffs.

    That was 11 months ago. After watching Lowe once again spit the bit Tuesday night, it seems like ancient history.

    The pennant race is heating up, but Lowe more closely resembles an unproven rookie and not the veteran stalwart who won his final five starts of 2010. The latest chapter in what could be the beginning of the final descent for the 38-year-old right-hander came Tuesday, the Nationals pounding out eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits to chase Lowe in the fifth inning of the Braves’ 9-3 defeat.

    As the wild-card lead shrinks – Atlanta started the day just 2 ½ games ahead of surging Arizona – and the Phillies apply separation in the NL East, the Braves could use a big dose of steadiness from the only member of the starting rotation with a World Series ring. Instead, Lowe is moving in the opposite direction, rapidly approaching Scott Proctor status as Braves who instill the least amount of confidence in the frazzled denizens of Braves Nation.

    A winner of 12-plus games every year since moving from the bullpen to Boston’s starting rotation in 2002, Lowe has lost seven of his past 10 decisions and now sits at 6-10 on the season with a ballooning 4.86 ERA. He’s pitched beyond six innings just twice in his past 10 starts. His past three starts have further increased the frustration: a total meltdown in a disastrous sixth inning in Cincinnati, followed by a less-than-crisp five innings against Pittsburgh (in which he threw 105 pitches), followed by Tuesday’s debacle in D.C., in which Lowe saw a 3-1 lead disappear quicker than Congress left town following the debt ceiling vote earlier in the day.

    If Braves fans had a vote on what happens in five days, the guess here is many would feel better if somebody other than the guy with 346 career starts would climb the bump. That may sound strange to say, given the youthfulness of Atlanta’s staff and the increasing pressure of the race for October. But it’s true. Derek Lowe isn’t getting the job done right now, and the feeling continues to grow that somebody – i.e., Julio Teheran or Mike Minor – could do better.

    He might make $15 million a year, but Lowe hasn’t been worth 15 cents lately. The Braves can’t afford to give him many more chances to turn things around.

    —30—

    Follow Bud Ellis on Twitter: @bud006

     

     

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