Seemingly from the moment he signed in late December, a certain segment of the team's fans and followers -- maybe because of his last name, maybe because of the $9.5 million the Red Sox paid him, maybe because of his slow start, or maybe because he was blocking Jose Iglesias -- never wanted to give Stephen Drew a real chance in Boston.
But they may want to start reconsidering. Because with Iglesias now in Detroit, and with the shortstop healthy again, it's beginning to look like J.D.'s little brother could have a big impact for the Sox down the stretch.
He's still hitting .239 for the year, and his overall numbers are nothing special -- but look deeper, and there's plenty to like about the player. He's been on the disabled list twice, but take away the first five games after each of those stints, and Drew's average is up to .257. Since May 1 he's a .259 hitter with an .802 OPS that ranks fourth on the Red Sox, behind only David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury among qualified hitters. And over the past month his .377 on-base percentage is second only to Ortiz -- despite reaching in only three of his first 18 plate appearances after that second DL stint.
After going 2-for-4 on Saturday night, including a rare lefty-vs.-lefty single against southpaw Pat Corbin, he's hit .379 with a 1.181 OPS over his last eight games. And those numbers alone don't reflect the impact he's had on the Sox' 6-2 record over that stretch.
Evidenced by his .325 average and 1.017 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position this season, he has shown a knack for delivering in the big moments -- recently including the game-winning hit in the 15th inning, working out of an 0-2 hole to draw a walk in the Sox' six-run rally the next night, then starting the ninth with a single as the Sox tried to erase a one-run deficit the night after that.
“His swing, he looks much more confident at the plate,” Manager John Farrell said Friday. “Not just because he hit a home run tonight, but even some pitches last night that he just missed, there’s more authority to the swing. And as we’ve seen the couple times that he’s missed some time on the DL, as he gets those at-bats, he’s so much of a timing hitter and a rhythm hitter. He’s seeing the ball real well right now.”
And then there's the defense. According to the UZR/150 calculations at Fangraphs, Drew is the third-best shortstop in the American League this season if a scant three errors in 339 chances isn't convincing enough. Smooth and fundamentally sound, he's not as flashy as Iglesias, but he handles pretty much everything hit to him. And sometimes more.
Put it all together, and Drew is starting look like the guy who was one of the best shortstops in the National League between 2008-10. And a guy who's poised to really help the Sox from here on out.
So give him a chance.
“I feel good,” Drew said. “It's one of those things where you're looking around and balls are falling where I'm hitting them, and beforehand I was lining out. It's good. It's a good feeling when you're hitting the ball and things are going your way.”
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||1-for-4, RBI, 2 K, SB: He whiffed in his first two trips against Corbin, but stayed on a slider in his third trip and served it to left for a go-ahead single. With that, his hitting streak was extended to nine games, and he had the opportunity necessary for his 40th steal.|
|Shane Victorino, RF||2-for-3, R, 2 RBI, HR: His homer broke the ice against Corbin in the fifth, and he's now 10-for his last-23, a run that's included two of his season's seven homers.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||1-for-4, K: He's now hitting .145 since the All-Star break, but it's important to note that he's hitting just .130 on balls in play over that stretch. The AL average is .296, so the case can made that much of Pedroia's trouble is a product of misfortune.|
|David Ortiz, DH||1-for-4, K: His first-inning safety extended his hitting streak to 17 games, and he's now reached base in 17 straight contests.|
|Mike Napoli, 1B||0-for-1, R, 3 BB: His three walks matched a career high, and over the past dozen games his OBP is up to .392. He also saw 25 pitches on the night, tied with Pedroia for most among the Sox.|
|Jonny Gomes, LF||0-for-4, K: The situations where he batted were too low-stakes, apparently. Perhaps he's saving his hits for the late innings some night on the upcoming road trip -- but still he found a way to contribute, gunning down the would-be tying run at home in the eighth inning.|
|Stephen Drew, SS||2-for-4, R, 2 K: He's now hit in six of his last eight games, four of which have featured at least two hits.|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||1-for-4, 2 RBI, R: A night after narrowly missing a couple of homers, Salty got what was coming -- lifting an insurance-providing blast to the Red Sox bullpen in the eighth.|
|Brandon Snyder, 3B||1-for-3, K: Like Brock Holt, he continues to do his job, and the platoon continues to work. Snyder is 3-for his last-7.|
|Jake Peavy, SP||7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K: He gave up a solo homer to Paul Goldschmidt, and the bullpen couldn't prevent the runner he left for them in the eighth from scoring. But, still, it was about everything the Sox could've asked for his Boston debut. They'll wholeheartedly take three months of that.|
|Craig Breslow, RP||0 IP, H, HBP: He went to 0-2 on both of the hitters he faced, but spun a curveball into the cleats of the first, then gave up a single to the second.|
|Junichi Tazawa, RP||1 IP, H, K: After allowing one run to score on a single, he pitched out of a jam -- and punctuated his effort by striking out Goldschmidt with some high gas. Impressive.|
|Koji Uehara, RP||IP, BB: He walked a batter, which is actually newsworthy, given how unhittable he's been of late. He still kept it to three hitters, though, ending the game with a double play.|
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