Much has been made of the Red Sox? ability to get contributions from all kinds of sources this season. Lately, they?ve tapped into the potential of Jed Lowrie, whose long road back from various ailments has been rewarded with some critical contributions.
For the second straight day, Lowrie factored heavily in a game-winning rally, this time singling to lead off the ninth to set up the decisive run in a 4-3 triumph over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
For a guy that was bedridden much of March, lacking pizzazz in April and May and struggling to regain his form in June and July, the feeling of mobbing his teammates on the field at Fenway represents quite a turnaround.
?One of the most exciting parts about playing pro ball is that walk-off hit, running on the field and chasing down your teammates, those are the moments we play for,? said Lowrie, who doubled and scored in the game-winning three-run rally Saturday night and hit a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning to help the Sox past Anaheim five days ago.
Lowrie?s latest contribution may have been his most rewarding. It was his miscue in the top half of the ninth that opened the door for the Tigers to tie it.
Clay Buchholz entered the inning with a two-hit shutout. A chopper to second took a funny hop as it reached Lowrie and caromed off his glove. It went into the books as a single but Lowrie should?ve had it. When a walk, a double and a single gave Detroit the three runs it needed, the 26-year-old felt an even greater urge to atone for his mistake.
?It?s funny how the game presents opportunities,? he said. ?The top of the ninth with the leadoff base hit I felt like I could?ve made that play. I got the opportunity to get the bottom of the ninth going right away.?
He did so by hustling out a sharp grounder to third base and beating the throw by a step. After the way the Sox rallied but fell short Friday and came all the way back in the ninth on Sunday, there was a sense that Lowrie?s hit would lead to something good.
As has often been the case since Lowrie has returned, it did.
After Eric Patterson walked, Marco Scutaro put down a picture-perfect bunt toward third. Robbie Weinhardt, who had just taken over on the mound for Detroit, fielded and tossed it wide of first, a throwing error that allowed Darnell McDonald — running for Lowrie — to scamper in with the game-winner.
Amid all the hoopla of the team?s second straight walk-off was a sense that Lowrie?s contributions will continue to come.
?When he?s healthy he?s always been a good hitter, we just haven?t seen him healthy enough to be able to be productive,? manager Terry Francona said of Lowrie, who has also battled wrist ailments. ?It?s nice when he is. He?s gonna swing at strikes, he?s a pretty professional hitter. I know he?s younger but that?s never been an issue.
?He knows what he?s doing.?
While still unable to play on a regular basis as he regains his strength and his form, Lowrie has had some form of impact in several of the nine games in which he has played. He had a hit in his first at bat upon returning to the team in Oakland, promptly scoring a run. We mentioned the huge double off Angels ace Jered Weaver the other day and he also was one of the four runs that came in on David Ortiz?s grand slam in the ninth inning Friday.
For Francona, it simply continues a pattern established in Lowrie?s rookie season.
When Lowrie?s name comes up in media sessions, Francona often reminds reporters what Lowrie did for the team in 2008, just in case anyone has forgotten his consistent run production (46 RBIs in 81 games primarily from the bottom of the order) and stellar defense at shortstop, a position that was causing Francona fits until he plugged in the youngster for good after the All-Star break.
Few can forget his game-winning hit to end the American League Division Series against the Angels that year. Now, once again, we are reminded of what Lowrie can offer.
"I feel like I have a professional approach to the game and I feel that I can do everything to help the team win," Lowrie said.
The injuries and illness have derailed Lowrie?s progression. The frequent contributions of late suggest he?s back on track.