Healthy Mark Lowe has eye on October run

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In his third appearance since returning from injury, Mark Lowe retired the Toronto Blue Jays in order in the ninth, yet his 11-pitch outing Sunday failed to meet his goal.

"My only focus was to get out there and try to get it done in 10 pitches or less, pitch to contact," Lowe said. "And if I got three ground balls or three fly balls to the warning track I was happy with it."

He got two ground balls and a fly out, but needed 11 pitches to record the three outs. OK, so Lowe will take it. The right-handed reliever had missed 36 games with what's called a right intercostal strain, a rather painful injury in the rib area and one that Lowe tried to battle through for three weeks until he finally couldn't.

One reason he finally gave in to the discomfort and stepped back was because he was looking down the road to the playoffs. Lowe wants to pitch in a third consecutive World Series. Only this time he'd desperately like to pitch in the division and league championship series, too. In each of the last two seasons Lowe has been injured heading into the postseason and missed the first two series only to be pressed into critical World Series duty.

The result has not been kind: 37.80 career postseason ERA.

"It’s kind of the reason why I did what I did when I got hurt," Lowe said. "I wanted to take that time at that point in the season to take care of it so I have the next two months to get right, [get] where I want to be, where I need to be so I can pitch at the best of my ability without having to come back from injury. The last few years have been a struggle to bounce back from that, get back in the swing of things and get thrown right into the fire. It’s good to be healthy now and hopefully it lasts all the way through the end of the year."

Lowe's perfect ninth inning at Toronto gave him 2 2/3 scoreless innings since his return Aug. 10 against Detroit. He then pitched on the 13th against the Yankees, so he's gone against some stout lineups. He had to wait six days to get back on the mound -- "a long time to sit in the bullpen," as Lowe put it -- to finish off Matt Harrison's gem Sunday.

In his short time back, Lowe has allowed just one hit, walked two and struck out two. It's a positive sign for the Rangers' bullpen -- and for Lowe, who has health on his mind in the short-term and October redemption in the long-term.

"I feel really strong," Lowe said, "stronger than I have all year."