PHOENIX -- None of us is smart enough to understand how these things wind up happening.
A player can look sloppy for two months, then one day, in the warmth of the Arizona night, that player turns into a fluid, well-oiled athlete who strokes a pair of homers and knocks in seven runs.
That's what J.D. Drew's night was like last night.
He looked like 14 million bucks. For the past 35 games, he's had bust written all over him. A guy who agent Scott Boras snookered the Red Sox into overpaying. One great night does not get Drew out of the woods, but what if it's a start? What if he tears up the league? What if he hits for power, drives in runs, and makes everyone pay for the misery he's put himself through all of these weeks?
Was it coincidence that Drew broke out against a National League team in an NL ballpark? Or is this simply where he feels most comfortable? Sometimes it just happens.
Drew got to see his younger brother, Stephen, the starting shortstop for the Diamondbacks. He chatted with him briefly and planned on getting together with him after the game. The Drew boys haven't talked much lately because "J.D. is on the East Coast now and I'm on the West Coast and our schedules never seem to match up. When he's sleeping I'm awake. We haven't had a chance to really have a long conversation about things."
The younger Drew reasoned that his brother has battled a back problem most of the season. We've heard about a hamstring injury and a brief mention of a sore back. If it has been a lingering problem, that would explain his slow start and lack of power.
J.D. Drew was making no such excuses last night. He made a few adjustments that he would not share. He used those adjustments to his advantage and decided he wasn't going to dwell on the past.
He tried to block out the horrible numbers that were staring him in the face every time he picked up a newspaper or turned on the TV. He couldn't look at his stats, and everywhere he turned he'd hear about the $14 million per year he is making.
He tried to take what he thought were positive at-bats in Oakland Thursday (he was 1 for 4) and build on it. The bat felt good in his hands. The swing was where he wanted it. He wanted to bottle that feeling because he knew if he kept swinging like that he was going to get somewhere.
So he walked into Chase Field, a place he loves to hit, and knew he'd have a good feeling again. He felt good in the locker room. He felt good taking batting practice. Then in the first inning, what did he do against Arizona's Doug Davis? He tapped back to the pitcher.
Not to worry. He came up in the third and everything changed.
With two on, Drew put a good swing on a first-pitch fastball. This time there was no doubt. The good swing produced the desired result -- a home run that landed to the left of the 413-foot marker, a well-stroked ball to the opposite field, a sign Drew is swinging the bat better.
Then in the fourth, he struck out. But in the sixth, again with two on, and Edgar Gonzalez pitching, Drew saw a fastball to his liking and pulled it into the right-field bleachers for another three-run homer. In the eighth, he doubled to right-center to knock in his seventh run. He was standing on second base, next to his brother, and they looked at each another, realizing what a night it was.
"We'll talk about it tonight," J.D. said. "It's like a sibling rivalry out there. We're both so competitive and we both want to do our best out there. It's just a good feeling to help out for a change, to contribute. That's what they brought me here for. They've been so patient with me and I want to reward them for it. I feel that responsibility."
He has no idea if this is the beginning. All he knows is that he had a huge night. He can't recall having seven RBIs in any game he's played at any level. Certainly not at the major league level -- until last night.
Maybe the American League is tough on him. Do we know that for sure? No.
"Everybody likes to hit here [at Chase Field]. It's a good place to hit. It's a good feeling here," Drew said.
It was as positive as Drew has felt since he became a Red Sox. He felt as good as he did in the best moments of his career. Now the trick is keeping this going. If that happens, we'll shake our heads and wonder how the bad times became the good times.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.