Lowell up and running
Move to fifth spot in order paying off
Well-known for his speed and base-running abilities -- at least according to his self-deprecating sense of humor -- Mike Lowell manufactured a run based purely on instinct in yesterday's game, when the outcome was actually in question, long before the pitching performances by Tim Wakefield and Mark Buehrle were swallowed up in the third straight double-digit offensive output by the Red Sox.
Back in the sixth inning, on the Red Sox' fourth run of the game, Lowell deked a bit on Andy Gonzalez, somehow taking home despite the left fielder's possession of the ball in shallow left field. As Gonzalez scooped up the ball, Lowell waited a second, then as Gonzalez slowed getting the ball back into the infield, Lowell scampered home, giving the Red Sox an extra run and Bobby Kielty a gift RBI.
"I wasn't going, but sometimes outfielders lob it in," said Lowell, who went on his own, without direction from third base coach DeMarlo Hale. "He didn't really lob it in, but I saw him put his head down and take that one step. For him to regroup, he's got to take two more steps to make a throw. We were up [3-0] and I wanted to be aggressive. I figured it was going to take a perfect throw to throw me out, so why not go for it?"
And, in doing so, he prompted Kielty to give a big (and surprised), "Thank you Mike Lowell," when alerted after the game that he got two RBIs on his double.
That should be the refrain not just from Kielty. Because that bit of base running wasn't the only contribution Lowell has made to the Red Sox' three wins in Chicago, including the four singles, two runs and two RBIs he had yesterday in Boston's 14-2 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
It's become the typical production for Lowell, now that he has replaced J.D. Drew in the fifth spot in the order, a decision that went contrary to manager Terry Francona's desire for a lineup with alternating lefthanded and righthanded batters. But it was a decision that seemingly had to be made.
"Because of production, at some point you have to maybe stop being stubborn and do it," Francona said Friday.
That freed him to place Lowell after Manny Ramírez in the order. And it has paid off. With nine hits in the three games in Chicago, to start.
Including yesterday's game, Lowell is hitting .458 (27 for 59) with 15 runs and 19 RBIs when hitting fifth. (He's also hitting .400 in August.)
In 270 at-bats in the No. 5 slot, Drew is hitting .278 (75 for 270) with 44 runs and 34 RBIs.
"It's no different for me," Lowell said with a smile. "I like it more because I think I'm going to have more opportunities to drive in runs, hitting immediately after Manny. But I don't change my approach."
Nor does he change his approach on the base paths, where he made that difference with his legs, likely leaving Gonzalez a bit unnerved at creating the slightest of openings for Lowell to make it home.
"He kept his head up," Francona said. "DeMarlo has to stop him. But once DeMarlo stops the runner, good base runners just pick up the ball instinctually. It was a great play. It's something you talk a lot about in spring training, but good base runners always know where the ball is."
Lowell qualifies. That much is clear. And, like the team that has scored and scored and scored in the first three games in Chicago, Lowell is feeling mighty comfortable at the plate, though he allows that some of his hits have had luck behind them. Still, the words that he uses to describe the Red Sox as a whole could just as easily be put to his performance, especially of late (eight-game hitting streak, .556 over that span).
"We're rolling," he said. "We're clicking on all cylinders right now."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.