Nate McLouth and Derek Lowe Heating Up at the Right Time for Atlanta Braves

Evan Walker@@EvanTheJetCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2010

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 06:  Derrek Lee #27 of the Atlanta Braves is congratulated by teammate Nate McLouth #24 after scoring in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 6, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Whenever a general manager signs or trades for a new player to add to their team, it is always a roll of the dice, no matter the player's previous track record.

Braves GM Frank Wren seemed to be hitting the jackpot with his recent acquisitions of players such as Derek Lee and Alex Gonzalez, but a couple of his more expensive investments have tarnished Wren's streak of luck—specifically Nate McLouth and Derek Lowe.

Firstly, I would like to pull an anti-Clemens and plead guilty.

I am guilty of being one of those people that said Nate McLouth would never return to his 2008 form and Derek Lowe was long past his glory days in Boston and Los Angeles. 

It turns out I was dead wrong on both accounts.

So while the jury is making it's decision, let's discuss these two players' rejuvenation and what it could mean for the Atlanta Braves in the chase for the division title.

Nate McLouth

Only a few weeks ago McLouth was better known as "McOut" and Braves fans cringed when they saw him step up to the plate—especially with men in scoring position.

But that was a few weeks ago.

Since then, McLouth was furloughed to the minor leagues and returned to Atlanta with a bang.

This sudden offensive explosion from McLouth is the prototypical case of a player getting sent down to the minors after a struggle and accomplishing exactly what he went down there for.

McLouth is 9-for-22 (.409) with two doubles, one triple, two homers and eight RBI in a seven-game hitting streak, with only one strikeout (if it weren't for a couple of robs at the wall, he would have two more homers).

In his last few weeks before being sent down to Gwinnett, that stat line looked more like .092 (6-for-65) with one double, one RBI and 14 strikeouts.

You do the comparison.

Take a look at the Atlanta Braves optimal starting lineup (excluding the pitcher).

1. Infante 2B
2. Heyward RF
3. Prado 3B
4. McCann C
5. Lee 1B
6. McLouth CF
7. Gonzalez SS
8. Diaz LF

Before the McLouth resurgence, that lineup was average, held prisoner by a glaring weakness in the bottom of the order.

Suddenly, the Braves are sporting a starting lineup just as dangerous as the starting rotation.

Speaking of the starting rotation...

Derek Lowe

To say that Derek Lowe has been disappointing in his two years with Atlanta is an understatement.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the poor performance on the pitching rubber has extended deep into the latter part of Lowe's third year in Atlanta.

However, in his past couple of performances, Lowe is starting to look like the dominating pitcher that the Braves invested $60 million in two years ago.

In his last start, Derek Lowe fanned a career-high 12 batters while hurling eight shutout innings against the Washington Nationals.

Since skipping a Sept. 3 start to rest his elbow, Lowe has worked 14 innings and allowed just one run.

It's hard to believe that the man who shut down the lineups of the Pirates and Nationals in his two previous starts is the same pitcher who was removed from the rotation due to a chipped bone in his throwing elbow less than two weeks ago.

Sure, maybe these past two starts by Lowe are just brief reflections of his old self, but just like his teammate McLouth, Lowe sure has chosen the right time to dazzle on the diamond.


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