Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rally epitomizes Drew's value

Walks are boring. J.D. Drew is, if you ask any Red Sox fan, boring.

Even the Red Sox's rally from seven runs down on Friday night was, actually, fairly boring. It didn't happen in the late innings. It didn't happen with just one or two big hits. The go-ahead runs were across the plate before "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," let alone "Sweet Caroline."

It actually fits pretty nicely.

"It was, 'Hey, we won the game,' and at the end, it was like, 'Hey, no big deal,'" left fielder Jason Bay said. "It was early enough that we came back when it wasn't that dramatic. It was early in the game, a couple of runs here and there: 'OK, now we're down by three.' 'OK, now we have a tie game.' Once it was 8-5, it was almost like it was a regular game, not remembering we were down seven at one point."

And how did it all start?

Bay's two-run home run got the Fenway Park crowd believing again. Even before that, though, it was a four-pitch walk -- the most boring play in baseball -- drawn by Drew that started the shift of momentum back toward the first-base dugout.

It was the first of the five times Drew would get on base on Friday. He walked three times, tripled, homered and scored three runs.

"He's a huge part of our offense," said Bay, who gets to hit behind Drew on a nightly basis. "When he's at his best, that's what he does. Everyone knows he's an on-base machine when he's going well. ... I don't think it's any coincidence that a guy like him gets on a bunch of times and (Dustin Pedroia) gets some hits and, all of a sudden, we score a bunch of runs."

Drew led the Red Sox in on-base percentage and, even with Kevin Youkilis hitting in front of him, might be the most patient hitter the Red Sox have. He saw 4.16 pitches per plate appearance a year ago, well ahead of David Ortiz (4.03) and Youkilis (4.02).

And when Jeremy Guthrie ignored the seven-run lead the Orioles had handed him and started Drew off with four pitches out of the strike zone, the right fielder was more than willing to oblige. (The first of those pitches appeared to be in the strike zone, but when you take pitches, you give the umpire a chance to help you out.)

That's not something just anyone can do when facing such a steep deficit.

"It's not easy," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It's very easy to get frustrated and swing at pitches -- especially Guthrie. He's good, and we've seen him real good. That's not easy to do. I was proud of them for that. We made him work hard, and that's not easy to do when you're down. If you give away maybe even one inning, you end up showing a good effort but coming up short."

Bay followed by taking two pitches -- one ball and one strike -- before whacking a hanging slider into the bullpen to get the Red Sox on the scoreboard.

And the next time Drew came up, Guthrie didn't dare miss with any of his pitches. He threw a slider up in the zone that Drew took for a strike, and he then threw a fastball even more up in the zone that Drew hit into the bullpen for a solo home run.

Two innings later, he went after the first pitch he saw -- a fastball over the middle of the plate -- and tripled off the center-field fence.

"He took some really good swings," Francona said. "He got pitches he could handle and didn't chase out of the zone, and he hit them with authority."

Taking really good swings is a fantastic thing. You can't score runs without taking really good swings. But the fact that Drew is willing to take a pitch and is willing to take a walk means that he's going to get pitches that are far, far easier to hit when he does decide to swing.

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