NEW YORK -- Two days' rest. That might be plenty for any other profession, but it's nearly unheard of for a Major League starter -- and that's before you count the pressure surrounding each outing.
Derek Lowe shrugged off the odds and his tired arm on Wednesday night, and he threw six innings of one-hit baseball to lead Boston to a series-clinching win in New York. That victory sealed his team's four-game turnaround, the first time in baseball history that a team has won four straight games after falling behind, 0-3, in a postseason series.
"I came in fully confident," he said after Boston's 10-3 win. "I think you can look at the two days' rest, but you can also look at the fact that I only pitched once in 16 days, so it wasn't like I was pitching every five days."
He wasn't pitching because he hadn't been effective, which made his latest star turn all the more unpredictable. Lowe wasn't even supposed to have started in this series, but he was forced into action when Boston needed to use Tim Wakefield in relief on Saturday.
He pitched relatively well in Game 5, but Terry Francona had no idea what to expect in Game 7. It didn't matter -- with a sore-armed staff, he intended to ride Lowe as far as he could go.
"We were trying to get innings out of D, and he just pitched two days ago. If we got three, four, whatever we got, we could have gone to Wakefield," said Boston's skipper. "We had lined up a lot of different scenarios, but he was so special tonight. ...It's not easy to do what he did, to give us the innings. And the quality of the innings was really something."
Something is one way to describe Lowe's outing. Dominant is another. Lowe allowed just two baserunners over six innings, one via hit and one on a walk. He threw 69 pitches, with 44 landing in the strike zone.
And he erased the specter of his worst career start, a one-inning September stint in Yankee Stadium.
"It was a personal challenge for me to see if I could come back in the Stadium after the disaster I had in September," said Lowe, who gave up seven runs on that day. "We're all competitors. When someone tells you that you really can't do something that you think you can, given an opportunity, you want to go out there and prove to yourself that you can do it.
"There was a lot in this series for me personally, because the decision to put me in the bullpen was correct. ... I pitched poorly down the stretch."
Those numbers are irrelevant at this point. The most recent game is the only one that matters -- with the possible exception of the seven coming up. The Red Sox are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1986, and Lowe is a huge reason. Even with a handy lead, his performance was impressive -- even to himself.
Derek Lowe / P
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"I kept thinking, this offense is so good, especially in this stadium. You really try to keep the crowd out of it as much as you can. And by doing that, you can throw strike one," he said. "We had no idea how long I was going to go, and they didn't either. So you just take it one pitch, one hitter at a time. I know it sounds simple, but that's the way I try to take it."
"Derek Lowe's performance set the tone for us," said Kevin Millar, Boston's first baseman. "Derek did a great job with everybody. He kept them off the basepaths."
He also kept his season alive and, perhaps, his tenure in Boston. Lowe will be a free agent at season's end, and there has been a lot of speculation that he won't return to the Sox next season. The former 21-game winner and 42-save man was realistic about his prospects, but he was optimistic about the next 10 days.
"Games like this can make or break your so-called career," he said. "I know a lot of people in Boston have been talking about this whole free agency thing and keep saying, 'Is this going to be your last game?' You know, luckily, it's not going to be."
Spencer Fordin 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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