Durable Lowe gets hurt by gopher ball

NEW YORK -- Derek Lowe's latest road wreck wasn't as ugly as
the numbers indicate.

He did give up six earned runs for only the fifth time this
year. He struck out only two of the 31 batters he faced. And the
one cutter he threw turned into Nick Johnson's two-run homer that
put New York ahead for good.

Despite pitching for the fourth time in eight days, he kept
Boston within striking distance. Unfortunately, for the Red Sox,
Andy Pettitte kept them at bay in the Yankees' 6-2 win Thursday
night that tied the AL championship series 1-1.

"I don't necessarily look at it as a poorly pitched game,"
Lowe said. "If I'm able to get one more out in the seventh inning,
it's 4-2. I know I didn't."

Instead, with two outs he left after allowing a single to Jason
Giambi and a walk to Bernie Williams. Scott Sauerbeck relieved and
allowed a two-run double to Jorge Posada that made it 6-2.

That sealed another road loss for Lowe.

During the regular season, his road record was 6-5 with a 6.11
ERA while allowing opponents to hit .332. At home, he was 11-2 with
a 3.21 ERA with a batting average of .220 against him.

Is there a reason or is it just coincidence?

"He's beyond that. He's well beyond that," catcher Jason
Varitek said. "That was just some freaky thing at the beginning of
the year. He kept us in the game."

Lowe was 1-3 on the road in April and May but 5-2 after that.
And he pitched Boston into the ALCS by striking out two batters for
the save in Monday's 4-3 win in Oakland that gave Boston the AL
division series 3-2.

Lowe, who tied for the AL lead with 42 saves in 2000 but didn't
relieve this year until the playoffs, allowed the winning run in
relief in the opener at Oakland. Then he pitched seven strong
innings as a starter at Fenway Park in Boston's 3-1 win in Game 3.

He said all that work didn't hamper his effectiveness Thursday.

"I'm not a guy to make excuses," Lowe said. "I'm probably
sorer now than I've been in a long time. But no, not at any point
did the workload affect any pitches."

Boston reliever Alan Embree wasn't so sure.

"He didn't pitch that badly," Embree said. "He's pitched a
lot lately. I think he just got tired."

He allowed seven hits and three walks and didn't get much help
from his hitters Thursday as the Red Sox left the bases loaded in
the first and scored only once in the second when they had runners
at first and second with no outs against Pettitte.

"We certainly had chances," Boston general manager Theo
Epstein said. "We didn't capitalize the way we hoped to. Andy
Pettitte can turn it on at a moment's notice."

Pettitte allowed just three hits in his last 4 2/3 innings.

Lowe allowed Johnson's homer that made it 2-1 in the second and
Bernie Williams' RBI single in the third. After a hitless fourth in
which he hit Aaron Boone with a pitch, Lowe gave up Hideki Matsui's
run-scoring single that made it 4-1 after five.

He retired five straight batters before getting into trouble in
the seventh.

"They are extremely tough and they never give up," Lowe said.
"Giambi, I wish, could have easily hit a ground ball to somebody,
but he didn't. He battled and they beat us."

It was the third straight playoff game in which New York scored
in the bottom of the seventh after Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang
"God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Pettitte struggled early, but Boston couldn't deliver the
knockout blow that might have boosted Lowe's confidence. A
double-play grounder by Gabe Kapler in the second was critical.

"It was a big double play," Varitek said. "The ball goes left
or right two feet, we've got action."

Instead, Lowe got another road loss.