Derek Lowe and the Red Sox now await their opponent for Tuesday's ALCS. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- For the last three seasons, Derek Lowe never missed a turn in the Red Sox's rotation. But a couple of days before this postseason began, Lowe was told he was missing a turn.
Sox manager Terry Francona only had four slots available, and he told Lowe that he was the odd man out.
Lowe's reaction? Disappointment. But only because he's competitive. He didn't let the situation make him any less ready for his new role, which was to be the long reliever for the Sox in this Division Series against the Angels.
As it turns out, Lowe wound up playing a crucial role, winning the Game 3 clincher. While the Sox rode David Ortiz's two-run, walk-off blast in the bottom of the 10th inning to victory, Lowe helped make it possible.
He came on in the top of the 10th, and was given an initial scare. Jeff DaVanon's leadoff flyball had some life to it off the bat, but it slowed down in time for Johnny Damon to track it down at the warning track.
He walked Jose Molina and gave up a sacrifice bunt to Alfredo Amezaga, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. David Eckstein made things more interesting, reaching on an infield hit. While Lowe faced potential adversity, the Fenway faithful stood behind a man who has been with the Red Sox since July 31, 1998.
"Let's go D. Lowe," went the chants.
Lowe escaped the jam, getting Chone Figgins on a roller to short that Orlando Cabrera made a strong play on.
Nobody in recent memory has had more ups and downs in a Boston uniform than Lowe. He went from All-Star reliever to an embattled closer. In fact, things got so rough for Lowe during that 2001 season that he requested a new job description, that of a starting pitcher.
The fans were back on his side in 2002 as he was positively prolific in his new role, pitching a no-hitter and going 21-8. But the last two seasons have marked some ups and downs for Lowe, particularly this season, when he went 14-12 with a 5.42 ERA.
These might be his final days in Boston as he'll be a free agent in November.
"We've been through a lot together," Lowe said of his relationship with the fans. "I think they realize it takes 25 guys in the playoffs. They've given me a lot of support."
Lowe has also received support from his teammates, including star righty Curt Schilling.
"He and I talked extensively when the decision was made that he wasn't going to start," said Schilling. "He was down. I would have been as down as he was. We talked about the fact that you could change the whole season's perspective in one inning and he did that."
Schilling avoids long trek: Aside from the obvious motivation of advancing to the next round, the Red Sox had other reasons for wanting to wrap up this Division Series against the Angels as quickly as possible.
Curt Schilling / P
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
A loss in Game 3 would have put the Sox in a complex predicament of what to do with Schilling, who was on tap to start a potential winner-take-all, Game 5 back in Anaheim on Sunday afternoon.
If there was a chance of a Game 5, the Sox would have sent Schilling back to Anaheim before Game 4 even ended so that the pitcher would have enough time to get settled.
Now, Schilling will be rested ready to go for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday, be it at Yankee Stadium or the Metrodome.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield would have started Game 4, but will now probably have to wait a while for his next start.
The Sox were glad that they didn't have to make another coast-to-coast trek. They took a red-eye home following Wednesday night's Game 2, and the sun had come up before they arrived back in Boston on Thursday morning.
"There's nothing worse than traveling and not getting to your destination until the sun comes up," said Francona. "It's a big Southern League thing. If you could get to where you're going before the sun came up, you had a chance. If you pulled up to the hotel and the sun was blazing, that's not good. Pulling into Chattanooga at 11 in the morning, it would be a thousand degrees. That's sort of what I felt like."
Damon still dealing: Damon told media members during Thursday's workout that he still gets occasional migraines as a result of the concussion he suffered following a collision with Damian Jackson in last year's Division Series clincher against Oakland.
Damon said that he knows the migraines are coming, because they start by his neck stiffening. The center fielder was able to see his chiropractor prior to Game 3. He certainly looked rejuvenated, going 3-for-5, scoring a run and stealing a base.
Francona isn't worried about Damon's playing status being in any kind of jeopardy.
"I didn't even really know when [the migraines] happen so my guess is it's not something that's going to keep him out of a game," said Francona. "Sometimes I don't get some things from the trainers. When I don't get them right away, I think that means they're dealing with it and they'll play."
Sticking with what works: After scoring eight runs in Game 2, Francona put the exact same lineup out there for Game 3.
The Sox offense clicked in this series, hitting .302. The pitching was also solid, posting a 3.54 ERA.
And the defense, aside from a throwing error by Schilling, was flawless in the three games.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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