If he's going to get slammed every time he misses time due to injury, he deserves credit when he's showing up. And showing up has been something that J.D. Drew has been doing all year long for a Red Sox team that's been absolutely devastated by injuries.
The Red Sox played their 100th game on Monday night, and for Drew, it was his 90th, ranking him fourth on the team behind only Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre. He made his presence felt, too, with a huge two-run double in the top of the ninth to turn a one-run game on the road into a surefire victory.
With Clay Buchholz pitching brilliantly, Victor Martinez driving in a run on the first pitch he's seen since late June, David Ortiz homering twice and Jonathan Papelbon picking up a four-out save, it's unlikely that Drew's hit will garner much attention overnight. That's nothing new for Drew.
All too often criticized for his seeming inability to play through injuries, Drew didn't let a sore hip flexor in May or a hamstring strain in June keep him off the field for too long, and he's produced steadily along the way.
Obviously, a .268 average, 12 home runs and 49 RBIs aren't eye-popping numbers, but without them, it'd be hard to imagine the Red Sox could have kept afloat in the extended absences of Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Cameron.
Drew's big hit on Monday night in Anaheim (Tuesday morning back in Boston) came in typical J.D. Drew fashion. With two outs and runners on first and second, Drew took a strike. He then watched Michael Kohn throw two balls. He then watched Kohn throw a strike. And then another ball. Without moving the bat off his shoulder, Drew worked a full count.
Drew then fouled a couple of pitches off before smoking a high fastball into deep right field, hitting the top of the fence and missing a home run by an inch. It was a patient, eight-pitch at-bat, and it gave the Red Sox a three-run lead just a few minutes after Scott Atchison helped turn a 4-1 game into a 4-3 game in the bottom of the eighth.
While the perception of Drew isn't something likely to change, it's not entirely accurate. Yes, he's had five seasons in which he's been limited to 110 games or fewer, but he averaged 140 games in the other six seasons. And past history aside, Drew's 2010 season has been invaluable for the Red Sox, especially considering the team has put Darnell McDonald in the outfield for 75 games, Jeremy Hermida for 49, Daniel Nava for 29 and Jonathan Van Every for 22. In a game centered around consistency, Drew's been the only player able to bring it in the outfield this season.
Still, as is Drew's personality, don't expect the 34-year-old right fielder to lobby for attention any time soon. He'll just continue to provide steady offense, some always-solid defense and the occasional clutch at-bat. More simply, whether some people choose to notice or not, he'll just keep showing up.