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Sox hope Drew stays in the swing of things

Team needs him to keep hits coming

J.D. Drew is coming off a torrid August in which he hit .329 with 6 HRs and 13 RBIs. J.D. Drew is coming off a torrid August in which he hit .329 with 6 HRs and 13 RBIs. (File/ The Boston Globe)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / September 1, 2009

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The contributions from J.D. Drew can be measured in months. A month here, a month there, not nearly enough to add up to $14 million per year, yet tantalizing enough to see how a general manager couldn’t resist the temptation. The swing remains beautiful, a study in what a lefthander should look like when he steps to the plate, when he seizes upon a baseball thrown from 60 feet 6 inches.

And yet, as much as bad luck has figured into his season - that 0-for-22 in Toronto and Texas could only be chalked up to something supernatural, right? - Drew has relied on good months and good stretches to build his legacy in Boston.

This past month? This has been one of those that renews the faith in the Sox’ right fielder.

“If you could put it in a bottle and sell it, you’d make a lot of money,’’ said Drew, referring to his productive streaks. “It’s just one of those things with baseball, you go for a stretch where you just, you work hard, you do things, things just don’t click at the plate. Then all of a sudden you finally get a little rhythm and it seems like you see the ball well, you make good judgments, you don’t swing at bad pitches, then when you do swing at the pitch usually that you can handle, you finally hit it where you get it on the good spot of the bat and it finds a gap somewhere.’’

There was June of 2008, when Drew took it upon himself to make up for the loss of David Ortiz. He batted .337 with 12 home runs and 27 RBIs. He covered for the big bats, made up the difference, and helped the Sox keep winning. There was September of 2007, when Drew pushed the Sox toward the World Series, and batted .342 with four homers and 18 RBIs. Then there was this past month, when he batted .329 with six homers and 13 RBIs. He helped stabilize the offense from the eighth spot in the order.

But, all in all, the numbers are stark. Drew has hit at least .300 in just four of his 17 months with the Red Sox during the regular season. He has hit less than .240 in five of those months. Even his hot August has brought up his average this season to just .265, with 18 homers and 53 RBIs.

“It was in Texas, I came off that road trip really, honestly feeling like I could have gotten five or six hits out of 20 at-bats and I had zero,’’ Drew said. “When you hit a ball 407 feet to center field and the right fielder catches it, that’s when it’s going pretty bad. You just throw your helmet down, walk to the position, and finish playing defense. That’s about it. It’s nice to have things turn around a little bit and head in the right direction. It’s a good time for it to happen.’’

The Sox hope that the results he’s shown at the plate lately will carry over into this month and October.

“He’s banged a number of balls off the left-field wall,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “When he does that, that’s a really good sign. You could say that for just about every hitter, but with J.D., when he has that ability to stay back and stay through the ball, there’s a pretty good chance he can still hit the other pitches for power, which he has done. When he’s just pulling the ball, he’s still a dangerous hitter, but he’s less dangerous or ‘on’ a lesser amount of pitches.’’

Because, in truth, Drew is more than the numbers say he is. He is a .282 career hitter with the potential to be better, to blossom at any time. Building off last month, this September could be brilliant. Or it could not. With Drew, it’s often hard to tell.

“The good swings are out there a lot more often than the results show,’’ Drew said. “I felt like the whole time, I’m not a .250 hitter. I don’t feel like I’m hitting .250 this year. There’s been years when I’m hitting .250 and I feel like I’m hitting .250. This year wasn’t one of them. I kept saying, ‘Man, I’m hitting .250, this can’t be right.’ I was down in the .240s. I’m hitting way too many balls well to be hitting .240.

“I felt good a few days, felt bad a bunch of days. Just trying to find that rhythm. One of those things where, when you hit balls really hard and they make some outs, that’s tough because those are the times when you start messing with things and try to change stuff when you really don’t need to. It’s nice to finally hit some balls where they find the gap or find the hole, they kind of get you going.’’

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