Derek Lowe pitched eight superb innings and three Braves homered off Brett Myers as Atlanta beat defending World Series champion Philadelphia 4-1 in the major league opener on Sunday night.
Lowe (1-0) allowed two hits, no walks, struck out four and the sinkerballer got 13 groundouts. Mike Gonzalez pitched out of trouble in the ninth to secure the win.
The Phillies had better luck against Lowe when he pitched for Los Angeles in the NL championship series (NLCS). They beat him in Game 1 and he had a no-decision in the Dodgers’ loss in Game 4.
“Having just played them, it was easy to watch video to see what you did last time,” Lowe said. “They’re an extremely good hitting team. I was able to get ahead in the count. I just wanted to be consistent.”
Brian McCann hit a two-run homer, Jeff Francoeur had a solo shot and Jordan Schafer went deep in his first career at-bat for the Braves.
Once Lowe came out, the Phillies rallied. Pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett started the ninth with a double and scored on Jayson Werth’s one-out RBI single. After Gonzalez walked Chase Utley to bring up the tying run, the hard-throwing lefty struck out Ryan Howard looking and Raul Ibanez swinging to end it.
“He was awesome,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Lowe. “He really knows how to pitch.”
Atlanta gave Lowe a US$60 million, four-year contract to anchor its revamped rotation. The 35-year-old right-hander pitched like an ace in his debut with his new team. He gave the Braves the type of masterful effort they used to get from Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson.
Myers (0-1) filled in for Cole Hamels, whose first start was pushed back because of minor elbow problems. Hamels, the NLCS and World Series MVP, is expected to pitch at Colorado on Friday.
The Phillies celebrated the franchise’s second World Series title during an hour-long ceremony before the game. Players entered the field from Ashburn Alley behind the stands in left-center field. They walked past adoring fans and onto a red carpet that stretched from the warning track to the infield.
Then-manager Charlie Manuel raised the championship flag. Later a giant US flag was unfurled in the outfield and players were introduced to rousing ovations.
Even their uniforms had a special look: All the red lettering and numbers were trimmed in gold.
The Phillies are favorites to win their third straight NL East title because they have nearly the same team that went 11-3 against Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay in the postseason.
But Philadelphia’s star-studded offense sputtered in the opener.
Jimmy Rollins, Utley and Howard combined to go 1-for-11 with two strikeouts.
“Derek Lowe’s a tough guy to hit. He was on his game,” Howard said. “He’s a groundball pitcher. I don’t know if he has a magnet in there to keep it down or whatever. Give him credit.”