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Dodgers' Lowe built for October

Dodgers' Lowe built for October

NEW YORK -- A pitcher accustomed to winning games that ended playoff series in the American League takes a different approach in his first National League postseason appearance.

Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe gets the ball right off the bat in Game 1 of the best-of-five National League Division Series against the New York Mets, which begins Wednesday afternoon at Shea Stadium.

The last time the 33-year-old pitched in the playoffs was for the Boston Red Sox in 2004. He threw the last pitch in a one-inning relief stint against the Anaheim Angels in the final game of the American League Division Series; started and won the decisive Game 7 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees; and started Game 4 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, which completed a four-game sweep.

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It has been a year between playoff appearances, but his memory remains fresh.

"It's such an adrenaline rush at this time of year to go out there and pitch in big games, especially in a city like this," Lowe said Tuesday afternoon. "I truly love and have always loved pitching in New York. I haven't always had success, but, you know, the crowds here are fantastic.

"You know what you're going to get. So, again, having played in Yankee Stadium all those years, you learn how to deal with it. You learn how to deal with a hostile crowd, and [Wednesday afternoon] is going to be no different."

It takes a certain kind of pitcher to be able to block out the surroundings and focus on the task at hand. First-year Dodgers manager Grady Little believes Lowe is just the guy to start the first game of the postseason.

"This is his time of the year," Little said. "The playoff season is his time of the year. I think, for him, the confidence he's been able to build up through his [postseason] experience is going to be the big factor here.

"I have a lot of faith in what Derek can do."

The success Lowe had during his seven years with the Red Sox, including the storybook playoff run two years ago, has put him in position to feel right at home in a pressure-packed playoff game.

Lowe goes to work in the series opener with a three-game postseason winning streak, a 4-4 overall record and a 3.05 ERA in 62 innings.

Lowe, who shared the NL lead with 16 regular-season wins and ranked 10th with a 3.63 ERA, realizes the importance of any series opener.

"In a five-game series, Game 1 is very important because you really don't have that much time to make up," he said. "[The Mets] obviously have a tremendous offense, really left-handed dominant. There really is no weakness. You've got to go out there and pretty much pitch the best game of the year to have success."

Lowe has faced the Mets once this season, at Dodger Stadium on June 6, when he beat Pedro Martinez, 8-5. Lowe allowed two runs in six innings, one of his best starts prior to the All-Star Game.

It wasn't until August that Lowe became the best pitcher on the staff, going 8-1 in August and September to help propel the Dodgers into the postseason as the NL Wild Card team.

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Little was Lowe's skipper for three seasons in Boston and was asked if Lowe has changed.

"I think he's better, to tell you the truth," he said. "He had his ups and downs this season. At a point coming out of the All-Star break, we weren't playing that well, losing 13 out of 14. At that time, we needed someone to step up, and he did.

"For us, our playoff season started on Aug. 1. He stepped it up. He's been outstanding for us since that point. I don't know where we'd be without him."

Even so, Lowe's name hasn't been prominently mentioned in Cy Young Award talk.

"I see a pitcher who doesn't get enough credit for what he does," said Dodgers teammate Aaron Sele. "He's an outstanding pitcher, but I think people think he's a little goofy. He's a high-energy, fun-loving guy that knows how to pitch."

Especially in October.

Jim Street 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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