Friday, June 13, 2008

Lowell Grand Slam Leads Red Sox OverOrioles

The grand slam belonged to Mike Lowell, the drought-busting home run to Kevin Youkilis, the shutdown pitching to Jon Lester, the victory to the Red Sox.
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But this homestand, which the Sox ended last night with a 9-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles before the usual packed house at the Fens (38,139), was one man's wildly entertaining playground: J.D. Drew, who put his stamp on nearly every game here with his bat or glove.
Drew's double off Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie in the fifth, which was followed by an intentional walk to Manny Ramírez, preceded Lowell's slam. His eighth-inning, two-run home run off reliever Jamie Walker, his first off a lefthander this season, was his parting shot to this 7-2 homestand, as the Sox head out for six interleague games, three apiece in Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
"Ultimately, if we want to get to where we want to go, we're going to have to play better on the road," said manager Terry Francona, mindful of the chasm between the Sox' record here (28-7) and their ledger abroad (14-20), "but it sure has been fun being home."
For no one more than Drew, who has hit safely in his last 11 games - a period that dovetails with David Ortiz being sidelined with an injured left wrist - batting .500 (18 for 36), with 6 home runs, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 15 runs, and 15 RBIs. He has raised his average to a team-high .324, and his 10 home runs are just one fewer than he hit in 2007, his first season with the Sox.
"It's been like David and then some, because there's a little speed there that David doesn't have," said Lowell, whose first slam this season also came after a free pass to Ramírez, a strategy he would never question. ("If I hit a ground ball, it's a double play," Lowell said.)
"It's really been huge. It makes us feel like we haven't missed a beat. I don't mean to downplay what David brings to this team, but J.D. has done as well as anyone could in this stretch. Impressive. He's gotten big hits, big home runs, and played a very good right field."
The way Drew is going, the last thing the Sox would want is a disruption of his routine. When he shattered a bat in Wednesday's win, a press box wag was reminded of Roy Hobbs breaking his "Wonderboy" in "The Natural." Drew last night laughed at the comparison, reminded his visitor that it was the man, not the bat, and insisted he is not a prisoner of habit like certain people.
"I don't try to remember what I did yesterday and try to do it today," he said. "I don't go into that detail. I don't think that's why you get into good rhythms.
"I think you have a routine you go through, but it doesn't fluctuate to the extent of [Nomar] Garciaparra, where you make sure you're running up the steps the exact same way you did before."
Drew and Garciaparra played a season together with the Dodgers.
"I would kind of laugh and let him do his business," Drew said.
The first three games after Ortiz was hurt, Francona left Drew down in the order. The last eight games, he installed Drew in Ortiz's No. 3 spot, and Drew has made the move look brilliant.
"I've had runs like this in my career where you're feeling good and things are in place," Drew said. "You try to get your hits for the night, go home, get some rest, and do the same thing over and over again."
Ramírez was no slouch on this homestand, either, although his 15-game hitting streak ended last night, when he went hitless in three at-bats and walked twice.
Drew and Ramírez have combined to hit .444 this month (32 for 72), with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. The rest of the team is batting .246 (69 for 281) with six home runs and 34 RBIs. But Lowell has homered each of the last two nights - the slam came on a first-pitch slider and carried into the first row of the Monster seats - while Youkilis hit his first home run since May 18 against the Brewers, 20 games ago, and has reached base in seven of his last eight plate appearances.
"That's baseball," Youkilis said. "You go through ruts. If I could hit .350, I wish I could. I was going through a rut. Now I'm getting out of it."
Lester, meanwhile, shut out the Orioles on three hits before being touched for a couple of runs in the sixth. Lester (5-3) has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts (4-1, 2.34 ERA) and last night walked just one, the seventh time in eight starts he has issued two or fewer passes.
Lester, like the team, has been better at home (4-1, 2.55 in eight Fenway starts) than on the road (1-2, 4.71 in seven starts).
"I don't know if it's bad luck or what," Lester said. "We've had a lot of travel, we've gone overseas, we've gone to the West Coast numerous times, so it's been tough.
"But I think we're good. We'll at least keep swinging the bats and pitching well, and hopefully, everything will fall into place."

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