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Drew takes the grand tour

Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Beloved in Beantown, he isn’t. Fans thought the Red Sox overpaid for J.D. Drew, who opted out of his Dodgers contract to sign a five-year, $70-million deal with Boston in January, and the right fielder did little to endear himself to Red Sox Nation during the regular season.

Not only did Drew underachieve, hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 64 runs batted in -- hardly the production you’d expect from a $15-million-a-year player -- but he showed so little passion that by the summer some fans were calling him Nancy Drew.

Which made Saturday night a bit of a mystery for Drew, who wasn’t sure how to react when the same fans who’d derided him all season began chanting his name -- his real name -- after his first-inning grand slam, which propelled the Red Sox toward a 12-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.

Was this what Drew thought? It was. The chanting would not stop until Drew came out for a curtain call, so he hopped to the top step of the dugout and thrust both arms in the air before quickly retreating to the bench.

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“I’ve had a few of those in my career -- none here so far, but it was great,” said Drew, who also singled twice to help the Red Sox even the best-of-seven series, 3-3, and force a decisive Game 7 tonight.

“The atmosphere was great. It has been a tough year, one of those situations where my expectations were high. I didn’t have the year I would have liked, but I feel like I had a good September and started to get things turned around.”

Drew turned viciously on Fausto Carmona’s 3-and-1 pitch in the first, lining it over the center-field wall. The Indians right-hander was one out away from escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam when Drew connected for a 4-0 lead.

“That won the game,” said Boston pitcher Curt Schilling, who allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings to improve to 10-2 with a 2.25 earned-run average in the postseason and 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five games when facing playoff elimination.

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“J.D. Drew is a special player. I’m sure he’s not real proud of the year he had, but if it were anybody else, any of the media here, any of the fans who railed on him for six months, in the situations he’s been in, you wouldn’t produce because you’d be squeezing the bat, you’d be stressed. He could have easily been pressing and he didn’t. It was exciting to see.”

Drew also followed walks to Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell in the third with an RBI single to center to jump-start a six-run inning and knock Carmona, who was rocked for seven runs and six hits in two innings, out of the game.

Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury (RBI single), Julio Lugo (two-run double) and Kevin Youkilis (RBI single) added big hits in the inning, which gave Boston a 10-1 lead, and the Red Sox, who won Game 5 in Cleveland by a 7-1 score, cruised the rest of the way.

Boston’s second straight lopsided win sets up tonight’s winner-take-all Game 7 showdown between Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook, who pitched superbly in Game 3, and Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been shaky in two playoff starts.

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Westbrook allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings of Cleveland’s 4-2 Game 3 victory. Matsuzaka has given up seven earned runs and 13 hits and walked five in 9 1/3 innings against the Angels and Indians, earning a no-decision and a loss but a vote of confidence from Manager Terry Francona, whose response to repeated questions last week about his Game 7 starter remained the same: he’s rolling with Dice-K.

Of course, the way Boston’s bats have come alive in Games 5 and 6, Matsuzaka might have some room for error tonight. And if he falters early, ace Josh Beckett said he could throw a few innings of relief, like he did in Game 7 of the 2003 National League Championship Series for the Florida Marlins against the Chicago Cubs.

“I haven’t seen him come up small in a huge game yet in his career,” Schilling said of Matsuzaka. “I believe, based on his makeup, based on his demeanor, that he’s going to do something special” tonight.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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