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Red Sox 7, Rays 4

Drew swings into action for Red Sox

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / June 4, 2008

Most teams can only dream of such an A-list replacement when the best hitter on their team goes down with an injury.

Imagine a five-tools player with an uncanny batting eye, a swing sweeter than butter, and long, measured strides that eat up great chunks of real estate, whether running the bases or tracking down fly balls.

You'd pay top dollar for such a player, and the Red Sox do. And last night, J.D. Drew placed all those skills on display with the kind of all-around performance that reminded people why he made it to the big leagues just two months after he was signed 10 years ago.

It is an article of faith around here that these kinds of nights have appeared only intermittently since Drew signed his five-year, $70 million deal with the Sox, but his timing couldn't have been better. With David Ortiz officially going on the disabled list with his left wrist in a cast, Drew doubled, homered, walked, scored two runs, and made two big catches as the Sox let some air out of the Tampa Bay magic bus with a 7-4 win over the Rays.

"Oh, you guys are going to love running with this stuff, huh?" Drew said when the Papi-is-down, J.D.-to-the-barricades theme was sounded.

"I think you're going to hear from every single guy in here. We know what our job is, our role is on this team.

"It plays well. We've got a good, solid core group of guys who get on base, guys who get 'em over, and guys who get 'em in. We're going to miss Papi for sure. No doubt the timing was pretty good, yeah, but we got some key hits in some key situations. Mikey Lowell hits a big two-run homer, Coco [Crisp] drives in a couple with a ball off the wall."

On a night that was entertaining even before some clown in a Celtics jersey dashed onto the field in the seventh inning, eluded two open-field tackles by Sox security types, and vaulted over the railing, Jeter-style, before being collared, the Sox and Rays went back and forth before Boston landed the decisive counterpunch - a four-run sixth-inning rally that took its impetus from an error by shortstop Jason Bartlett and reached its apex on that rarely seen event, a big hit by Crisp.

Crisp, who wasn't even in the original lineup until Manny Ramírez mentioned his hamstring was still sore, lined a two-run, opposite-field double that gave the Sox a 6-4 lead. A night after he ended an 0-for-23 slump, Crisp delivered following a tying single by Jason Varitek and pinned a defeat on Rays starter Matt Garza, who spiked a baseball, Rasheed-style, after issuing a four-pitch walk to Drew in the midst of the Sox uprising.

"We're not going to pout, 'David's out,' " said Kevin Youkilis, who touched off the winning rally when he was hit in the forearm with a Garza pitch. "We're just going to go out there and play hard. We've got enough guys to get the job done. David is definitely a big loss, but we have a lot of great players who can step in."

The rally made a winner of Justin Masterson, the 23-year-old rookie who has settled nicely into the role of pitcher-on-call, going six innings for his second big league win, this one as a fill-in for the disabled Daisuke Matsuzaka. Masterson yielded a leadoff home run to Akinori Iwamura and a two-run home run to Carlos Peña in the sixth that gave the Rays a 4-3 lead, but left two men on in the inning before giving way to the bullpen.

"I'm very impressed with Masterson," Drew said. "That, without a doubt, is one of the highlights of the season for me, watching him pitch. He gets the ball and throws it.

"As a defensive player, he's the kind of guy you like to play behind. He throws strikes, and lots of those strikes don't get hit. He's going to be special in this league. It's fun to watch."

Dustin Pedroia's diving stop in the outfield grass to take a hit away from Peña in the seventh, some terrific work by Craig Hansen in the eighth, and an overpowering ninth from Jonathan Papelbon - who hit 99 miles per hour on the Fenway gun for his 17th save - closed it out.

The Sox closer, in his own wacky way, tried to lighten the team's concern over Ortiz's left wrist injury with a postgame pronouncement that he, too, had an injury that required medical attention. The injury, he said, was to his elbow. His left elbow.

"The official diagnosis is 'Elton John surgery,' " Papelbon said. "It's all good, man. Just got to ice it. There's no surgery needed for Elton John. It's just kind of nagging, kind of like Elton John songs."

The Sox, winning for the 11th straight time at home, are now a half-game behind the Rays in the American League East. Tampa Bay has been in first place or tied for first 22 days this season, a full week longer than the Rays' combined total for their first 10 seasons.

"To win in this league, you have to win in this ballpark," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, whose team has lost four straight in the Fens since taking three in a row from the Sox in the Trop at the end of April. "They're 22-5 here. They're difficult, they're very difficult.

"But we have to get it done here. At some point, we've just got to make that leap."

All attempted leaps came with a price last night, as the trespasser in Celtic green painfully discovered.

"That was incredible, absolutely incredible," Drew said. "What I liked was his hair flew off - he was wearing a wig - when he jumped the fence, and he didn't know whether to pick it up. He looked at the [security] guy and left it laying there.

"He put on some pretty good moves, but I heard he broke his finger. Julio [Lugo] said he broke his pinky; it was sticking out like this. Served him right, I guess."

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