Lowe proves he still has something left

ARLINGTON, Texas -- So that's the reason 39-year-old pitcher Derek Lowe made the Rangers out of spring training.

For night's like Saturday, when the Rangers needed a long man out of the bullpen because their rookie starter got drilled by a line drive in the wrist.

Maybe that's not the exact script, but Saturday night was all about Lowe, who gave the Rangers four hitless innings in a superb performance that keyed a 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners. Lowe was forced into action when rookie Nick Tepesch had a line drive scrape off his right wrist, forcing him out of the game for precautionary reasons.

Enter Lowe, who needed 31 pitches to get through four innings. It was vintage Lowe, the one who has racked up 176 victories because of a devastating sinker that has made him one of the premier ground-ball pitchers in baseball.

"I liked it," Lowe said of his sinker. "It put a smile on my face."

Of the 12 outs he recorded, nine of them came on ground balls. The only Mariners hitter who reached against Lowe was Kendrys Morales, who was hit by a pitch to start the fourth inning. Lowe quickly erased that with a double-play ball. He and catcher A.J. Pierzynski took advantage of an aggressive Mariners lineup.

"We certainly needed it," Washington said. "He had a good sinker working tonight. He was moving the ball up and down. It was just an outstanding job, especially when we were just trying to hold onto a one-run lead."

With the Rangers continuing to struggle offensively, Lowe had to be sharp. Pierzynski gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with a one-out home run in the bottom of the fourth. Lowe made the run stand up, getting the first two batters he faced in the top of the sixth before Washington went to the bullpen for left-handed reliever Joe Ortiz.

Ortiz, Tanner Scheppers and Jason Frasor all had to work around baserunners, but they were able to finish off the Rangers' second consecutive shutout. The Rangers have 21 consecutive scoreless innings heading into Sunday afternoon's game.

"They proved that they have a heartbeat," Washington said of Ortiz and Scheppers. "It's not easy at the major league level. That's a good challenge for them."

Low showed he has a heartbeat, too. The Rangers signed him late, so he didn't begin spring training until early March. He gave up a three-run home run to Rick Ankiel in his debut in the season opener on March 31. He pitched an inning on April 10 before going 2⅔ innings Thursday in Chicago.

Lowe was back at it Saturday, proving he can handle the layoff in between appearances.

"That's where a veteran player understands this, where a young guy gets kind of antsy," Lowe said. "I understand I have to be prepared every day. That's something I've always taken pride in my whole career, is show up every day, work hard and expect to play that day. That's what makes it a little bit easier being 39 years old, you don't get discouraged when you don't pitch in eight or nine days."