Monday, July 27, 2009

Lowrie finally gets a break

Jed Lowrie's first swing on Monday night came with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the second inning. He jumped on a changeup down and away and laced a sinking line drive into shallow right field -- where Ryan Sweeney ran it down, snagging it at his knees before sliding into the grass.

It's been like that for the last few days for Lowrie: Fly balls into the gaps and line drives all over the plate with nothing at all to show for it. He even ripped a fastball to the warning track in right field on Sunday, a pitch right over the middle of the plate that he couldn't have hit much harder than he did.

"I thought it was out," he said that afternoon. "I hit that ball pretty well."

When he came to the plate with the bases loaded in Monday's seventh inning, he was hitting .111 since his return from the disabled list and .083 for the season. His BABIP -- batting average on balls in play -- was a "This is not a typo"-low .054.

He then got under a 90-mile-an-hour fastball on the inner half of the plate and lofted a harmless pop fly behind third base.

It fell to the grass between three Oakland defenders.

It hopped into the stands.

Two runs scored, and Lowrie cruised into second base.

When asked about the bloop hit, the 25-year-old shortstop couldn't help but laugh.

"Once again, I thought I hit a couple balls real well tonight -- and I got one down," he said. "Baseball's a funny game. You take them where you can get them."

"Line drive in the book!" center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury said with a grin from the locker stall next to Lowrie. "With the baseball gods, with three lineouts, something was bound to happen. He definitely earned it."

Lowrie got to the plate 58 times in his rehab stint in the minor leagues, including 40 at Triple-A Pawtucket. He now has gotten to the plate 21 times in the major leagues since his wrist surgery. His swing still is a work in progress just the way everyone else's swing was a work in progress in mid-April. But the way he was hitting the ball right into defenders' gloves wasn't helping.

"Sometimes you just need a ball to fall in for you, and it gets you off and running," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "It's tough. But he's got, what, 30 at-bats so far under his belt? Everyone else has three or four hundred. It's only a matter of time until he gets back into the flow and swings the bat good."

Lowrie can tell he's hit the ball hard. Everyone in the dugout can tell he's hit the ball hard. But that doesn't make it any easier to walk up to the plate and and see ".083" on the scoreboard in center field. Everyone goes 2-for-20 at some point every season -- likely American League batting champion Joe Mauer, for example, went 2-for-25 in the three games before and three games after the All-Star break.

It just looks worse when you don't have much else on the back of your baseball card other than those 20 at-bats.

"When you have 25 or 30 at-bats, every hit raises or lowers your average by 50 points or 100 points," he said. "You can get off to a great start and on your next 100 at-bats do terribly, and you're right back to where it should be. It's definitely been -- I don't want to say 'frustrating' because I've tried to stay with the approach because I've been having good at-bats. I just haven't had anything drop."

And that's why he's not about to give back Monday night's bloop double -- a hit that raised his batting average all the way to .108.

"We'll take being good or being lucky," Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "More often than not, that's not going to work. But we'll sure as hell take it."

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