Yanks Strike First in Battle for AL Lead - NBC New York

Yanks Strike First in Battle for AL Lead

Derek Lowe throws four shutout innings in Yankee debut



    Meeting Veterans’ Special Needs in Hospice
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    Lowe's Red Sox days will no longer be held against him.

    It had the makings of a night that leads to columnists criticizing Brian Cashman's decisions at the trade deadline.

    CC Sabathia was out, which meant David Phelps was making the start against Ryan Dempster, the starting pitcher that the Rangers got just before the deadline after they outbid the Yankees and every other suitor for his services.

    A Rangers win, especially one where pitching made the difference, would launch dozens of catcalls for the general manager's unwillingness to make a big deal to bolster the team.

    Phelps seemed destined to make that happen as the Yankees fell behind 2-0 after two innings and it looked like the Rangers would ride Dempster to a bigger lead in the race for the top team in the American League. And then the roof caved in for Dempster.

    He loaded the bases in the third, leading to Nick Swisher's grand slam and a total shift in the game. The Yankees were off and running, adding one more run that inning, and Phelps had been granted a reprieve he rode through five innings.

    It wasn't always pretty as Phelps allowed seven of the first 14 to face him to reach base, but he picked two of them off in a pseudo-Pettitte performance that was surprising to see from a right-handed pitcher. That seemed to add to his confidence and his final two innings were a much easier affair.

    Phelps seemed set to cruise further into the night, but the Yankees had him on a pitch count and that meant handing the ball to Derek Lowe for his debut performance. Were he a 23-year-old neophyte, the performance would be the stuff of legend.

    Lowe won't quite generate that, but four shutout innings requiring just 44 pitches feeds another narrative that should work out just fine. Lowe, who got the save in what turned out to be an 8-2 win, becomes the latest in a long line of veterans who looked washed up in losing situations only to find themselves again when they move to a better neighborhood.

    It might not work out quite that way, but it was enough to steal a win on a night that was supposed to feature Sabathia and wound up featuring a makeshift duo that carried them to victory. If they can pull that off once more in the next trip through the rotation, Lowe's signing will be a success even if he doesn't throw another pitch for the team this year.

    And that becomes a big win for Cashman, who has staked his reputation on the Yankees doing things another way. They'll still spend big money, but they won't give away prospects for the right to spend big money and they'll hold onto their confidence in the overall quality of the team even when you hit the rocky patches that almost everyone understands are part of the baseball season.

    A good chunk of Yankee fans and media fall outside that "almost everyone" group, which is why it seems bold that Cashman won't sell A-level prospects for B-list veteran talent. That boldness has worked just fine for him this season, including a Monday night in the Bronx that made Cashman look like one of the smartest guys in the room.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.