|Mike Lowell returned to the lineup but only for one at-bat, tweaking his injured hip while flying out to left in the first. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
By the time Mike Lowell exited last night's game against the Yankees, it was already a lost evening. The rain that had engulfed the Boston area had delayed the start by 1 hour 31 minutes (and added a second delay later); the Yankees were on top by four runs, a lead that would swell to 11 by game's end; and the American League East title was about to head to Tampa Bay.
But those were simply minor annoyances when compared to facing the playoffs without Lowell at third base. Lowell was removed before the bottom of the third inning, one at-bat into his stint at designated hitter, his first appearance after missing eight games with pain in his right hip.
He aggravated the injury, and will almost certainly miss his next scheduled start, at third base in tomorrow's regular-season finale. And now the question concerns his availability for the AL Division Series against the Angels.
"I would defer to we'll see what time says," Lowell said. "By no means do I think I'm owed a roster spot just because I've played here. If I'm not going to do anything that can help the team win . . . but in the short series it's a little different. You don't have to carry as many pitchers. Maybe pinch hitting is an op tion. We'll see. I'm not ruling out anything yet, but obviously I was disappointed today."
So were the Sox, who lost this one, 19-8. It seemed worse, as an announced crowd of 37,301 had little opportunity to cheer other than when when Gil Velazquez and George Kottaras each recorded his first major league hit. With rain threatening to interrupt the game, the Sox scratched Daisuke Matsuzaka - as they had done earlier with David Ortiz - and started David Pauley instead. Even with weather problems forecast for today, Matsuzaka is scheduled to start.
It was ugly, especially by the end when the stands had emptied and the last train had pulled out of Kenmore Station with the game mired in the top of the eighth inning. That was after the September call-ups had taken over.
The Sox learned after the game that they will face the Angels in Game 1 Wednesday and Game 2 Friday in Anaheim, Calif. And that might help Lowell. With the series spaced out, the Sox will need to use only three starting pitchers, which could open up a spot for Lowell.
Still, the news on Lowell was disappointing. He checked his swing in the first inning, aggravating the injury. It happened on the pitch before he flied to left field, and after making contact he appeared to be having difficulty running to first.
"That was certainly discouraging tonight from our side of it," said manager Terry Francona. "He's certainly not ready to pull the plug or quit trying to play. So, we're kind of on board with him trying. The plan was to play him at third base [tomorrow]. I don't think that's going to happen. We'll work our way, the next two days here and then Monday, Tuesday. We'll see how it goes. It was certainly discouraging tonight.
"Because of how tough he is and what he means to us and him still wanting to play, we don't want to pull the plug, either."
Lowell experienced significant pain, but not quite as much as he had when he injured his hip against the Rays Sept. 16 fielding a ground ball.
"I'd say I told the trainers that if Tampa was 100, this was 85," Lowell said. "Maybe 81.
"The swing doesn't hurt me. It's the non-swing. It's when I kind of start and stop, you recognize it's not a strike so you take the pitch. That's when I feel it grab. I don't know how to avoid that. I can't go into the pitch predetermined I'm taking this one and I'm swinging at the other one. We'll go from there."
Lowell said he isn't worried about getting at-bats before the postseason. In 2003 while with the Marlins, he didn't play for a nearly month because of a fractured metacarpal in his left hand, before returning for the playoffs.
But, he said, "I kind of want to prove to myself and to them that I can play in the field. I don't particularly want to try something that is going to be an utter failure. I'm not classifying it as that. We'll still see. I'm not writing it off yet."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.