Braves Won't Stumble Without Lowe

It's the rare baseball team that shrugs off an injury to its highest-paid pitcher.

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Sure, the Atlanta Braves will say the right things and slap on a stern expression for the cameras, but facts are facts. With news that Derek Lowe (11-12) will miss one start and maybe more, the Braves aren't losing any sleep. A disappointing season for Lowe had become even worse after the All-Star Break, with only one win since July 18th, and 12 earned runs given up in the last 16 innings. Last Sunday's ho-hum six-run comeback against the Marlins saved his win-loss record from further abuse.

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Of course, with Kris Medlen having undergone The Surgery That Must Not Be Named, one isn't exactly tripping over extra starters in the Braves' locker room. So for Friday's game, Atlanta turns its lonely eyes back east, to the even more woeful Kenshin Kawakami.

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For some fans, the mere mention of Kawakami ends any celebration of Lowe's absence. The Japanese import's record is a comical 1-9, and his last start was back when Troy Glaus was an MVP candidate. However, a look at the numbers reveals the Braves are - well, they're not in worse shape, at least.

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Yes, the win-loss record stinks, but Kawakami's numbers are otherwise pretty similar to Lowe (KK's 4.75 ERA to DL's 4.53, KK's 1.44 WHIP to DL's 1.42). Plus, and this is lost to the cobwebs of June, Kawakami's last start was a six-inning, two-hit gem - the best game pitched by either hurler in 2010.

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Nobody is expecting Kawakami to turn into the pitcher who seemed to warrant a 3-year, $23 million contract last year. However, the Braves should be as comfortable with him taking the mound as Lowe, at least until the rotation mercifully shrinks in the postseason.

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