J.D. Drew has quietly been one of the most consistent performers for the Red Sox this season. Quiet, that is, due to the fact that critics haven’t been able to take their shots at the tweaks, sprains and strains which often rob him of playing time.
They had their chance Tuesday, when Drew was a late scratch with left hamstring tightness. The problem for all those Drew-haters out there? His absence set forth a turn of events that may have made the difference in the Red Sox’ 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Jed Lowrie, originally batting seventh, was bumped to Drew’s spot in the No. 2 hole, and Darnell McDonald was inserted into right field with an unexpected start and asked to bat ninth. In the latest in a long line of lackluster offensive performances for Boston, the pair shined at the dish.
Lowrie was 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, the second of which drove in his team’s first two runs in the top of the seventh. Prior to the two-bagger, the Sox had managed just five hits off Angels ace Jered Weaver and had blown their limited scoring chances early on.
Of course, Lowrie never would’ve had the chance to play hero if not for McDonald’s efforts. Weaver had retired eight straight and 15 out of 16 before McDonald battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a two-out walk in the seventh.
McDonald, who also had two of Boston’s six hits against Weaver, boldly moved to third on Marco Scutaro’s single to center field. Lowrie then swatted a belt-high fastball over the head of left fielder Juan Rivera, driving in both runners to turn Boston’s 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.
That lead was never lost as the Sox improved to 5-4 on their 10-game West Coast road trip.
The very top and the very bottom of the Red Sox’ lineup was affected most by Drew’s departure, while the heart of the order remained largely intact. Lowrie, McDonald and Scutaro combined to go 7-for-13 with three runs scored and Lowrie’s two huge RBIs. The rest of the bunch was 2-for-20.
For good measure, Lowrie made a pretty backhanded stop up the middle and spun to throw out Howie Kendrick for the first out of the bottom of the ninth.
With their injured stars returning one by one, the Red Sox figure to have fewer contributions from some of the replacement players that filled the gaps so admirably in May and June. However, the theme which has defined the club’s season to this point was very much alive Tuesday night, due in no small part to Lowrie and McDonald.
Lowrie figures to take on a super utility role once Dustin Pedroia returns. There’s a chance that McDonald is a roster casualty when Jacoby Ellsbury comes back, or at least sees his playing time dramatically reduced.
While misguided critics likely lined up to take their shots at the team’s regular right fielder, it was nothing more than hot air, all due to a pair of backups who showed just how the Red Sox continue to adjust to tweaks, sprain and strains.