Sox feel way better after Drew, Wakefield go deep
With 10 players on the disabled list and minor league call-ups arriving almost daily, the Red Sox clubhouse has been outfitted with extra lockers to accommodate the growing crowd.
The lineup Terry Francona concocted to face the Baltimore Orioles last night was the 69th combination he has used over 80 games. But Francona and those players still healthy enough to take the field refuse to dwell for long on the ones missing.
“I know I’m not going to roll over in bed because some guys are hurt,’’ first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. “We have a lot of guys who want to play and keep playing and we have guys who are hungry to come in and play well.
“You have to go out there and play hard and good things will happen.’’
As players fall, the victories are piling up. J.D. Drew had two solo home runs and pinch hitter Daniel Nava drove in the winning run with a bloop single in the eighth inning as the Sox beat the Orioles, 3-2, before a crowd of 38,067.
On the day the Sox placed two more players on the disabled list and welcomed three newcomers to a roster written in pencil, the Sox won for the fourth time in five games to move within a half-game of the Yankees in the American League East.
“I think we showed you tonight that we’re resilient, that we believe in each other,’’ said Tim Wakefield, who pitched eight strong innings for his first victory at Fenway Park since last July 8. “We’ve got to keep grinding it out until some of these guys get healthy and get back on the field.’’
Wakefield (3-6) scattered seven hits and struck out four, matching the good work of Orioles starter Brad Bergesen (3-5), who got two outs in the eighth inning before Marco Scutaro doubled off the wall in left, just inside the neon yellow foul line.
Orioles manager Juan Samuel called in lefthander Will Ohman to face Eric Patterson, a switch-hitter who is far weaker righthanded. Francona countered by sending up another switch-hitter in Nava.
“We’re trying to play to our guys’ strength,’’ Francona said. “Nava didn’t crush that ball by any means, but it worked out perfect.’’
Nava hit a ball that landed just inside the right-field foul line behind first base, the ball placed perfectly between three fielders who didn’t have time to reach it.
“I thought when I hit it that it would die,’’ said Nava, who has been slumping of late and was out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game. “Ideally, you’d like to hit a ball in the gap. But I’ll take it.’’
Scutaro, running on the swing, scored easily.
“You can’t defend those,’’ Samuel said.
Jonathan Papelbon had a stress-free ninth inning for his 19th save. The crowd had time to catch a late movie as the game lasted 2 hours 7 minutes, the quickest at Fenway since 2002.
Credit Wakefield for the pace. He threw 66 of his 96 pitches for strikes, tossing 19 in a row over the plate at one point. The excellent work came on a night when he was making his record 201st start at Fenway.
Wakefield allowed a solo homer by Nick Markakis in the fourth inning and three singles in the fifth that accounted for another run. He is 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA in his last five starts.
Wakefield pitched to Kevin Cash, who was acquired from Houston Thursday to replace the injured Jason Varitek. Wakefield’s personal catcher for much of 2008, Cash borrowed Victor Martinez’s extra-large glove to corral the knuckleball.
Drew put Wakefield in position to get the victory with home runs in the second and fifth innings. The first sneaked over the wall in left-center. The second was a blast that landed well into the Monster seats.
“Those are two of the prettiest swings you’ll ever see. When he’s hitting the ball like that to left field, it’s gorgeous,’’ Francona said.
Drew had missed Wednesday’s game with a stiff neck and prior to that was limited by a strained right hamstring. The injuries had restricted him to 10 plate appearances over the previous 11 games.
“Tonight I felt good. I had a lot of work done before the game. I knew I’d be playing, and I’m still trying to shake off the effects of that, but it was a good night,’’ said Drew, who, according to teammates, could barely lift his arms over his head Wednesday.
“I felt like I had a good approach at the plate as soon as I stepped in the box. Everything kind of fell right back to where I wanted it to go. Some nights you step in there and feel real good; I saw the ball well. Other nights, it’s not always like that. You end up battling.’’
It was the 17th time in Drew’s career that he has hit two home runs in the same game, and the second time this season. He hit two homers against the Orioles in Baltimore April 30.