Lowrie ready, remains on fire at the plate

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Lowrie ready, remains on fire at the plate

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jed Lowrie has been a man without a position to call his own so far this season and for much of his big-league career. Throughout spring training and into the season, manager Terry Francona reiterated that Marco Scutaro, who played hurt most of last season while the team was decimated by injuries, would be his starting shortstop.

But with the way Lowrie has been hitting, he should be a man with a spot somewhere in the lineup.

Lowrie went 4-for-5 Monday with a home run, two runs scored and four RBI -- matching career highs in hits and RBI for one game -- as he helped the Red Sox to a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays. So far this season Lowrie is hitting .516 (16-for-31), with eight runs scored and nine RBI (tying for the team lead with Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz).

"He's swinging the bat really well. That's the understatement of the day, said manager Terry Francona. The first inning we scored, we had a chance to strand runners. We had two punchouts with the bases loaded and he comes up and hits that first ball into right field to kind of get us going. Then we just kept adding on.

So far, Lowrie has hit in every spot in the lineup except cleanup and ninth. In his first career appearance in the leadoff spot, on Saturday, he went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBI, and a home run. His first-inning single that day was the first hit the Sox had gotten in their first plate appearance of a game this season.

In seven games on the homestand, Lowrie put together a seven-game hitting streak, going 15-for-24, with eight runs scored, nine RBI, a walk, three strikeouts, and two home runs, hitting an unworldly .625.

Lowrie takes his numbers in stride.

Yeah, sure. I hit .400 in college. I hit .300 in the minor leagues, he said. I mean, this is a hot streak and one that you just continue to work and extend as long as possible.

Thats what this game is about. Its about winning and you have fun when you win. I think thats how were going to win a lot of games is by getting contributions from everybody.

In the first inning, Lowrie came up with the bases loaded, two outs, and no score. Batting right-handed against Toronto lefty Ricky Romero, Lowrie sent the first pitch, a 94-mph fastball, into right field scoring J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia. It was all the runs the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka would need.

Just keep it simple, Lowrie said of his approach to the at-bat. Get a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. Had a couple of opportunities and had two outs. I was able to get a good pitch and drive it the other way and drive in a couple of runs.

Romero wants to get ahead in a situation like that and hes coming off two good batters Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis where he was able to get strikeouts. Hes looking to get ahead so I just tried to stay within myself and get that good pitch.

Lowrie has been limited for much of the past two seasons by injury and illness. Getting a chance now with Scutaro under the weather the past few days with a flu-like illness, Lowrie has made the most of his opportunities.

Against left-handed pitching, the switch-hitter is batting 10-for-17 (.588) with a 1.059 slugging percentage. For his career, he is hitting .386 (34-for-88) with seven home runs and a .693 slugging percentage against lefties since his debut on July 21, 2010.

Thats good for him, said Jason Varitek. He went through what he went through last year with his illnesses and to see that, that was two big hits today. Romeros got good stuff.

Lowries lone out in Mondays game came against a right-handed pitcher, striking out against Casey Janssen.

It was a little bit of a letdown, Lowrie said. I got one good pitch to hit and fouled it straight back. And then I chased a fastball up. Hes got a good curve ball and thats kind of his mix. He throws the high hard one and then the curve ball in the dirt. I chased the high one.

As he left the field after his last at-bat the Fenway crowd treated him to a warm ovation.

I didnt know if that was for me, he said. I didnt know what it was but I heard it. I figured once I got back to the dugout people had appreciated what Id done today.

Lowries numbers arent likely to stay as lofty as they currently are. They will come back to a more worldly level. Until then, he should be somewhere anywhere in the lineup.

I know I say it a lot but I just come to the park and prepare myself to play every day, Lowrie said. It might get redundant but thats what I do.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.