Sunday, June 8, 2008

Drew rewards an excellent effort

The Red Sox will likely never get to the stage where they're going to be bold enough to say, David Who? However, that doesn't mean that J.D. Drew isn't doing as strong a job as possible in holding down the No. 3 spot in the batting order until that guy named Ortiz comes back from the disabled list.
Before Sunday's game, David Ortiz used one word to describe Drew's swing.
"Perfect," marveled Big Papi.
A couple of hours later, Drew had indeed taken another perfect swing, cranking a solo homer to center in the bottom of the sixth to break a tie and ultimately lift the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Mariners.
Drew has simply been marvelous during the month of June. His Sunday afternoon shot was his second homer in as many days, and fourth in 27 at-bats since the calendar flipped.
"Timing is everything, I guess," said Drew. "It's worked out well."
How well? In his eight-game hitting streak, Drew is 14-for-27. He is hitting .318 on the season.
"The timing has been just about perfect," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I mean, he's seeing the ball really well. What you don't want is guys trying to do too much. Just try to keep a balanced batting order, and we still have that."
They are getting similar balance from the mound.
Justin Masterson, filling in for the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka, was strong yet again. The righty went six innings for the win, allowing three hits and a run while walking three and striking out four. In four starts, Masterson is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA.
"You feel good because you're giving the team an opportunity to win," Masterson said. "I think that's the idea of any starting pitcher who goes out there, any guy who comes up. They want to give the best that they can in order for the team to be successful."
The bullpen took it home, with Craig Hansen and Hideki Okajima (scoreless inning each) setting up Jonathan Papelbon (five-pitch ninth inning) for save No. 18.
Boston's relievers have posted a 1.60 ERA over the last 11 games.
"Everyone is just rooting for each other out there, everyone is pushing for each other, everyone wants to see everyone do good," said Hansen. "It's just one little family within a big family."
The Mariners jumped out first on this hot, steamy day at Fenway. Adrian Beltre and Jeremy Reed led off the second with back-to-back walks. Beltre advanced to third on a deep flyout by Richie Sexson and scored on a fielder's-choice grounder by Yuniesky Betancourt.
Erik Bedard, who had been dominant against the Red Sox in recent years, had to work for everything he got in this one. Coco Crisp ignited a Boston rally in the third with a one-out single to right. Brandon Moss followed with a walk. With two outs, Dustin Pedroia took one of the key at-bats of the game, drawing a nine-pitch walk to load the bases. Red-hot Drew was then hit by a pitch to force in the tying run.
The biggest key for Boston in the early going was making Bedard throw 99 pitches over the first five innings. In particular, Pedroia was a pest, seeing 19 pitches in a span of two at-bats. That forced the Mariners to go to their bullpen in the sixth.
"You look at the box score and Petey didn't have anything to show for it, but those at-bats, he never gave in," Francona said. "He worked the count. Maybe that's the reason J.D. got to face a righty."
And after bringing in that righty -- Sean Green -- the Mariners got the wrong result. It was just five pitches into his outing when Drew led off the sixth with a homer to center, giving the Red Sox a lead they never relinquished at 2-1.
On a day in which beach balls were flying back and forth in the bleachers, the baseball had to look about that big to the locked-in Drew.
"Just trying to get a pitch in the zone that I can handle -- and if it's there -- put a nice swing on it," Drew said. "It's been running into the barrel, which is nice. Sometimes you miss your pitch and foul it off. It's nice to take a nice swing and square it up, that's for sure."
Giving Bedard such an early shower was a most unusual occurrence for the Red Sox.
"We haven't done anything against Bedard, ever," said Francona. "Coming into this game those were the worst matchups I've ever seen. I mean one through 13, everyone who's faced him hasn't really done anything."
By the time the media was allowed into the clubhouse, Bedard said he was too tired to talk.
Masterson, meanwhile, had plenty left in his verbal tank.
"I love the heat," Masterson said. "I don't think it can really get too hot for me to have too much fun out there. The heat seemed to be OK."
Perhaps the only thing hotter these days than the Fenway weather is Drew's bat.
"He's swinging the bat well -- real well," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Even his outs, he's swinging the bat well. It's been good. And good timing with David out of this lineup."
Or as Ortiz might say, "Perfect."

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