Stephen Drew’s Offense Improving; Other Notes From Red Sox’s Loss To Orioles

Stephen DrewBOSTON — Stephen Drew hit the first two home runs of his 2014 season during Saturday’s day/night doubleheader against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

The veteran shortstop hit a solo home run in Boston’s 3-2 walk-off win in the afternoon, then hit a two-run homer in the Red Sox’s 7-4 loss in the nightcap.

He hadn’t belted a home run in the regular season since Sept. 19, 2013 against the Orioles.

Drew has looked much more comfortable at the plate over the last week. He’s collected a hit in five of his last seven games and has tallied four RBI in his last five contests.

“He’s been working at some things…He jumps in (midseason), it’s a difficult challenge to face,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday night.

“It’s good to see him getting a couple balls that he squares up to the pull side. It’s not been a lack of work, it’s not been a lack of effort by any means. It’s good to see him be in the mix today.”

After missing nearly half of the season, it was going to take many at-bats for Drew to get his timing down and become a factor offensively again. Now that he’s starting to get on base more often, the next step is to be more consistent.

Fair or not, the Red Sox need Drew to make a positive impact offensively in what likely will be a make-or-break month of July as the team aims to climb back up the AL East standings before it’s too late.

A few players who were driving in runs and getting on base consistently earlier in the season are not performing at that level of late. For example, rookie third baseman Xander Bogaerts hasn’t collected a hit in his last 25 at-bats and went from leading the team in batting average to hitting .238 through 81 games. The catcher position has been a complete non-factor offensively, with David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski hitting a combined .211 at the plate. The outfield also has contributed very little offense, and the only solution might be to acquire another bat before the trade deadline because Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t going to replace the oft-injured Shane Victorino’s production.

The Red Sox won’t re-enter the playoff race with just a few guys providing most of the run support. Scoring runs needs to be a team effort, and one player capable of creating a spark is Drew. He’s proven to be a quality hitter throughout his career, and as someone playing for a new contract next season, the 31-year-old has plenty of motivation.

Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Game 2.

–John Lackey gave up 10 hits, one walk and five earned runs in 5 and 1/3 innings. He took the loss, dropping his record to 9-6. Boston still doesn’t have a 10-game winner yet.

– Red Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Game 1. He’s hitless in his last 25 at-bats and was 2-for-56 before that. Bogaerts was benched in Game 2.

–Before Stephen Drew on Saturday, the last Red Sox player to homer in both ends of a doubleheader was Jacoby Ellsbury, who did it twice in 2011 (Aug. 16 vs. TB, Sept. 25 at NYY).

–Boston made a combined five errors in the two games (three in Game 1, two in Game 2). A few of them cost the team runs, including the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Game 2 when Daniel Nava misplayed a ball in right field.

–The Red Sox are 1-4 in their last five games after a win. They have won three or more consecutive games just three times in 2014.

–Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes were the only Boston starters without a hit in Game 2.

–The Sox drew six walks, the 28th time this year they have collected at least five walks in a game (third-most in MLB).

–Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz went 5-for-5, including his 27th home run of the season. He’s tied with Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu for the American League home run lead.

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