|Dustin Pedroia isn't pleased after being rung up by umpire James Hoye in the second inning. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)|
Drew takes a turn at the top
Struggling slugger hitless in 5 at-bats
The Red Sox used their fourth different leadoff batter in the last four games last night as manager Terry Francona unveiled a lineup that had J.D. Drew at the top of the order, and suggested that variety may be the norm for a while.
Drew came in hitless in six at-bats in the first two games of the homestand, but contended he'd seen some nasty pitches from the Rockies. He had not started in the leadoff spot since June 18, 2003, when he went 0 for 5 with a walk for the Cardinals in his first start at the top of the order since September 2000, when Tony La Russa used him in 10 successive games in the No. 1 hole. Drew hit safely in eight of those 10 games, batting .308 (12 for 39) with five walks.
"Facing a lefty [Jeff Francis] today, J.D. has had some good at-bats against this guy," Francona said before Drew went 0 for 5, stranding seven base runners. "Besides the game in Arizona, he hasn't been driving the ball a lot, but he'll give you a good at-bat. I just think we hit him first, hit [Dustin] Pedroia second, that gives us good on-base guys, and it puts [Kevin] Youkilis in a spot if they want to pitch around David [Ortiz] or Manny [Ramírez], they may get stung a little bit.
"I don't know if we're able, especially with interleague play, to have one lineup for the next two months. I just don't know if it's feasible. Obviously, we'd like to have consistency. This is something you may see from time to time at least. We'll see."
If the Sox' lineup was operating the way it had been drawn up in spring training, Francona wouldn't be forced to shuffle. But with Julio Lugo playing himself out of the leadoff spot, Francona is looking to create more production out of a spot in the lineup in which the Sox came into the game ranked last in the American League in batting average (.212), runs (31), and on-base percentage (.267, 35 percentage points behind the next-to-last team, the White Sox).
The Sox have scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last nine games, batting .232 (69 for 298) with 23 runs. They are 4-14 in games in which they've scored fewer than three runs, though two of those wins had come in the last week, Curt Schilling's 1-0 complete game last Thursday in Oakland, and Tim Wakefield's 2-1 win over the Rockies Tuesday night.
Drew said Francona spoke with him about the lineup shuffle after Wednesday's game.
"I told him I was fine with it," Drew said. "It was one of those situations where they're mixing things up a little bit. He just wanted to check with me and make sure I had no opposition.
"He basically told me it wouldn't be an everyday thing. He said he wanted to throw it out there, see if I was willing to do it, and see what happens with it. He thought it would be a good idea.
"I have a lot of at-bats where I see a lot of pitches. He just wanted me to stick with my game plan in a different spot in the lineup."
Sox leadoff men the last four games have been Lugo, Pedroia, Coco Crisp, and Drew.
"Thank God he was safe," Francona said. "Every time I see that on video, he looks like he's going to be out. And it's like, there's still a possibility. 'Run, Dave, come on.' He handled that role so professionally. He wanted to play. He deserved to. He's a regular player. He never said two words. You always say to players, 'Stay ready.' You know what? He did.
"What he did in that situation, it's going to go down in history in Boston and New England, as it should. In my career, it's the single most exciting play I've ever been around.
"I would be shocked if, when Davey comes up, the place doesn't explode. Then I hope he pops up and sits back down."