Last night, with the Bruins taking care of business in Toronto and the Celtics problems scattered throughout Malibu, Orlando, Waltham and parts unknown, the Sox were back at Fenway for the first time in more than a week. They were in the midst of a three-game losing streak, flirting with mediocrity (or reality?) for the first time all season. Obviously, they didn’t need win as badly as the Bruins did, but — STEPHEN DREW!
Oops. Did I just scream that? What I meant to say is that the Sox were pretty desperate to get back in the win column, and Stephen Drew saved the day. At the very least, he delivered far and away the best performance of his young Red Sox career.
First, there was his solo homer to tie the game in the seventh. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, with all of New England begging to be sent to bed, Drew short-hopped the monster for a game-winning RBI double.
Final score: Boston 6, Minnesota 5
Of course, Drew’s time in Boston got off to a pretty miserable start. From the jump, he had his last name working against him. Then, there was the injury — “See, like brother, like brother!” — and the trip to the DL. That was followed by Jose Iglesias’ hot start, the Sox still sending Iglesias down and Drew responding with 12 hits in his first 66 at-bats. That’s a .182 average, and that’s exactly where Drew was before last night. He had 12 hits in 20 games. Iglesias had nine hits in his first six games. “So . . . Benny, about that $10 million . . .”
But for at least one day, Drew silenced the haters. Last night, for the first time since signing with the Red Sox, he played hero for the Red Sox.
Now, if he can just do it again in Game 6 of the ALCS . . .
Anyway, between Drew’s game-tying home run and walk-off double, Dustin Pedroia came up big with a lead off blast in the eighth inning. It was Pedroia’s first dong of the year, it gave Boston a 5-4 lead and it would have won the game if not for the latest Joel Hanrahan disaster. But while the home run was ultimately over-shadowed it was responsible for one slightly unforgettable scene during the NESN telecast.
So, Pedroia goes deep . . . now he’s into his home run trot . . . next the camera pans to the dugout, and there they are: Jon Lester and John Lackey — sitting at the very top, almost on a perch, watching the ball sail out and celebrating like two guys who really care.
Unfortunately, like with everything this franchise does, it was hard not to be a little skeptical. A shot of two Sox starters, on their off day, so tapped into the game, sitting where everyone can see them, in perfect view of the NESN cameras . . . it felt a little like something Tom, Larry and Dr. Charles may have cooked up one night in the backroom at Abe & Louie’s.
But you know what? Who cares. Even if the owners are lurking in the background, trying to orchestrate this season like they’re Ed Harris in the Truman Show, the bond between these players and their collective commitment to winning is genuine.
You could see in the way Lackey and Lester reacted to Pedroia’s home run. You could hear it in Drew’s voice, when he was asked about his game-winning hit:
“I knew I hit it good, but you never know here,” said Drew, who went 4-5 on the night. “Sometimes I think I hit the ball good to right and it gets held up. Just a good night. Everybody battled. Salty ran out his (infield) hit and Middlebrooks gets a big hit. Nobody gives up here. We’re winning games and having fun.”
No argument here. This is a lot of fun. Grinding out wins. The emergence of new heroes. The ability to root for a group of likable players, and a group that just so happens to still have the best record in all of baseball.
How long will it last? We’ll see. We all know that between injuries and five more long months of baseball, it’s going to be real hard for the Sox to keep up the pace they set for themselves in April. You can’t help but think they’ll spend most of the summer fighting off a heavy gravitational pull, trying suck them back to Earth. But today, and thanks to Stephen Drew, the Sox are still floating — back on track and on top of the Major League standings.