Wash's Wisdom: Call for Derek Lowe backfires

Each Tuesday, we'll briefly take a look at a decision or two made by manager Ron Washington over the past week. This week, we discuss the skipper's decision to go to Derek Lowe in the sixth inning of Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Astros.

HOUSTON -- Ron Washington went with his most experienced pitcher with two outs and runners at first and second base in the bottom of the sixth, pulling Matt Harrison at 100 pitches. The Rangers were trying to keep within striking distance of Houston, trailing 4-2.

"I was hoping Lowe could throw his sinker and get a ground ball," Washington said after the game.

The Rangers needed any kind of out, though a ground ball is always good within the hitting-friendly confines of Minute Maid Park. With right-hander Brandon Barnes coming up for the Astros, Washington went with Lowe over power arm Tanner Scheppers and veteran Jason Frasor.

While Lowe made the team as a long reliever -- he's been a starter most of his career -- Washington did say a few days before the season began that, aside from closer Joe Nathan, no roles had been defined in the bullpen.

First-year Astros manager Bo Porter went with a pinch hitter, countering with lefty Rick Ankiel, who had dominated Lowe in 10 previous matchups (4-for-10, 2 HRs) coming into Sunday's game.

Well, Ankiel has three home runs now. He worked the count full, and Lowe left a breaking ball up that Ankiel crushed into the right-field seats.

"History shows he gives me fits," Lowe said. "A 3-2 pitch, I was trying to throw more further inside with a right-hander up next. I was trying to stay inside the whole time. It was the third breaking ball he had seen. I've got to make a better pitch."

It was a win for Porter in his first matchup against Washington, his good friend. It also was a tough debut for the 39-year-old Lowe, who said before the game that this particular Opening Day ranked very high on his list after making the team after three weeks of spring training.

  • Washington's decision to put David Murphy in the fifth slot to break up all the left-handed hitters at the bottom of the Rangers' batting order paid off. In the sixth, Murphy came up with two outs and two runners on. With Nelson Cruz on deck, Porter decided to leave right-hander Bud Norris in the game. Murphy singled to right field to drive in the Rangers' first run.

  • Washington went with CF Leonys Martin over Craig Gentry for Sunday's opener, going with the left-handed hitter against Norris instead of choosing the more experienced player in Gentry. Martin struggled, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. It will be interesting to see who plays Tuesday.