PHOENIX -- The hidden-ball trick is baseball burlesque, a sight gag that seldom appears on the big stage anymore but never fails to draw a guffaw when it does.
But as entertained as the Red Sox were by shortstop Julio Lugo when he undressed unsuspecting Arizona rookie Alberto Callaspo, tagging him out from behind when Callaspo strolled off second base, they were more dazzled by the sleight-of-bat trick performed not once, but twice by J.D. Drew.
The Red Sox right fielder, whose home run swing had seemingly vanished, left the building twice with three-run home runs, then doubled home another run for a career-high seven RBIs in a 10-3 win last night over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lugo, who also has been in a hideous slump (.127 average in his last 19 games), led off the game with a home run and later walked and scored, as Josh Beckett ran his record to 9-0.
"I think he's a good player, a good hitter," manager Terry Francona said after Drew's breakout game. "It was fun to watch him swing the bat like that.
"We need that long term. He looked excited, the dugout looked excited. He took good swings, and hit balls that traveled deep."
Beckett, who becomes the first pitcher since Jose Contreras of the White Sox last season to win his first nine decisions, is unlikely to need any dangling chads to win election to the All-Star Game, an honor that eluded him in Florida. Beckett gave up five hits in eight innings, including a pinch home run by Miguel Montero in the eighth. Only two of the three runs he allowed were earned. He did not walk a batter and threw an economical 92 pitches.
Beckett has enjoyed great run support all season -- he came into the game with 8.44 runs per nine innings, the second-best support in the majors. But this was the first time it was generated by Drew.
"We all knew it was just a matter of time," Beckett said. "He's a great hitter. I've seen him do it a lot in Atlanta, saw him in LA and in St. Louis. It was a big night for him."
Beckett also got an assist in a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't kind of way from Lugo, short-circuiting a budding Diamondbacks rally in the third. Callaspo, a rookie from Venezuela who is facing criminal charges in connection with an alleged assault on his wife, singled to open the third. Chris Snyder followed with a ground single to right. Callaspo took such a wide turn coming around second, Drew threw behind him, causing Callaspo to scramble back to the bag, where he beat Lugo's tag.
But Callaspo was unaware that Lugo had not returned the ball to the mound. As long as Beckett wasn't standing on the dirt of the mound, the ball was still in play, as a red-faced Callaspo belatedly discovered when Lugo, still lurking behind him, slapped the tag on him.
"I wasn't expecting it," Beckett said, Lugo having departed in stealth fashion. "I've seen Mike Lowell do it. He always tries to be so discreet about it. Lugo just kind of slipped behind him, and he took his foot off the base, and Julio tagged him. I was actually back there, trying to get him to throw me the ball."
The last successful hidden-ball trick executed by the Sox was pulled off by Steve "Psycho" Lyons in 1991. The two most successful practitioners of the lost art were second baseman Marty Barrett and shortstop Johnny Pesky, who played 40 years apart but did it three times apiece.
Lowell is believed to be the last big league player to pull off a hidden-ball trick, when he was with the Marlins in 2005. He did it twice, the last time against the Diamondbacks, Luis Terrero tagged out at third when Lowell, like Lugo, held on to a throw from the outfield. Former Sox reliever Todd Jones was on the mound at the time and got the best supporting actor Oscar to Lowell.
"It was like one of those Venus flytraps and he walked into it," Jones said afterward.
Drew had not homered in 33 games, and had gone deep just twice this season, a tepid return on the $70 million tossed his way by the Sox last winter.
Maybe it was the familiarity of being back in a National League ballpark, where Drew had spent his entire career. "Coming in today, it felt familiar. I knew where I was going, unlike a lot of ballparks I've walked into this year, where I didn't know where the visiting clubhouse was."
Maybe it was the familiar face of his little brother, Arizona rookie shortstop Stephen Drew ("There's always that sibling rivalry going on," said J.D.). Maybe it was just time.
"He will hit, he will hit, he will hit," batting coach Dave Magadan had said before the game.
Was that the equivalent of clicking his heels three times?
"I've got ruby slippers in my bag," Magadan said.
And what did he say afterward? "I've got the [clubhouse attendant] shining them up right now," Magadan said.
Lugo led off the game by lining a ball into the left-field seats off lefthander Doug Davis. Drew's first home run came off Davis in the third, when he connected after Lugo's walk and Manny Ramírez's single with a drive that cleared the wall in left-center at the 413-foot sign. Drew's second home run was pulled to right in the sixth, when the Sox scored four times off reliever Edgar Gonzalez, who gave up a double to David Ortiz and hit Ramírez in the left hand with a pitch.
"I'm going to forget about the past, push on, and have big games in the future," Drew said, "and take it a game at a time."
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.