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Lowrie happy to lead the way

He bats first, goes 3 for 5 with homer

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 17, 2011

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After making the most of his first career start in the leadoff position, going 3 for 5 with a two-run homer in yesterday’s 4-1 victory over the Blue Jays, one might assume the one thing Jed Lowrie would want for his 27th birthday today would be a second start atop the Red Sox order.

But that would be a mistaken assumption.

“No, I’ll take a win,’’ Lowrie said. “We’re trying to come together as a team and get wins however we can.’’

Lowrie made Terry Francona look like a managerial wizard.

With Carl Crawford struggling, particularly in the leadoff spot, where he had hit .107 (3 for 28) in six starts, Francona decided to make a switch. He made Lowrie the leadoff hitter after he went 7 for 10 in the first six games of this 10-game homestand and owned a team-leading .526 on-base percentage and .588 slugging percentage, adding up to an off-the-charts 1.114 OPS.

“We led him off because he’s been having so many quality at-bats,’’ Francona said. “He continued to do that, especially righthanded. He was on just about every pitch he swung at. If they threw off the plate, he took it. They threw him the one pitch away and he whacked it to right.

“He’s been having as good or better at-bats than anybody on our club right now.’’

Not even Crawford would argue that point.

“He’s swinging the bat real good,’’ Crawford said. “I don’t know what the lineup is going to be tomorrow, but I obviously know he’s definitely swinging a hot bat right now.’’

Lowrie chuckled when asked if yesterday’s performance made any kind of statement about his desire to continue in the leadoff role.

“I don’t think I’m a leadoff hitter,’’ he said. “We’ve got some guys who are prototypical leadoff hitters on this team.

“But if they ask me to do it, I’m all for it.’’

Lowrie improved his average to a team-leading .500 (11 for 22) and hit his first homer of the season, that two-run shot off Jo-Jo Reyes into the Green Monster seats in the second that produced a 4-1 lead.

It was the 14th homer of his career, five coming against Toronto. And he connected on a swing on which he reached out over the plate and just poked it out of the park.

“Actually, my first major league home run [at Minnesota in May of 2008] was off a curveball, kind of off that same swing,’’ Lowrie said. “Hit one like that in Seattle last year, same pitch [as yesterday] — changeup. So comfortably out front, I guess, is the best way to say it. I got a changeup, and I kept my hands back and squared it up.

“An offspeed pitch that gets left up in the zone like that, you can usually drive.’’

Lately, though, Lowrie has been driving everything.

Lowrie started last season on the disabled list with mononucleosis but rejoined the team in July and set career highs with a .287 average and 9 home runs in 55 games.

Now it seems he’s building on that success. Even the times he didn’t reach, he hit the ball hard, on a line drive to right in the third inning and on a warning-track fly to left in the fifth.

“I’ve been seeing the ball well and putting good swings on it,’’ he said. “That’s why you can’t really look at the results all the time. I went 3 for 5 today, but I felt like I hit the ball well all five times. And that’s all you can ask for right now.

“Don’t get me wrong, I understand the situation that we’re in, and we’ve had a hard time getting wins so far. But I think it would’ve been a mistake for me to try to do anything more than what I’m capable of doing.

“For me, it was just about staying within myself and getting on base, because I think that’s what I do best.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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