Top 50 Sox Seasons #29: Derek Lowe, 2002

21-8, 2.58/0.974/.211, 219.2 IP, 127 K, 48 BB, 5.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 2.7 K/BB, 6.8 H/9, 177 ERA+
All-Star, CYA – 3

A lights-out closer in 2000, Lowe struggled in 2001, giving up runs in eight of his first 11 appearances en route to a 10-loss season and losing his closing job to Ugueth Urbina. He started his last three games of that season and began 2002 in the rotation. Not a bad move. He’s never gone back, and this Cy Young-worthy line is why. If not for teammate (and shoulda-been Cy Young winner) Pedro Martinez, Lowe would have led the league in ERA, WHIP and ERA+. He finished behind Martinez and Tim Wakefield in hits-per-nine, and finished behind only Barry Zito in wins.

The sinkerballer 10 times in his 32 starts left a game having given up zero earned runs – most notably when he left in the arms of third baseman Shea Hillenbrand after throwing a no-hitter in April. No wonder he finished the season with a remarkable average game score of 60, throwing only six non-quality starts. He never left a game before completing the fifth, and only twice failed to complete the sixth – explaining why he ended the season with only three no-decisions.

Key game: April 27. Three weeks after a no-hit bid in his first start of the year was broken up in the eighth inning, Lowe sealed the deal against Tampa Bay, tossing the first gem at Fenway Park in nearly 40 years. The ninth was ultimately anticlimactic – no hard outs, and all game long, there were no defensive gems to speak of. Lowe simply set down the Devil Rays every inning except the third, when he allowed a leadoff walk.

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