Typically there would be little that would come of the ninth inning home run Stephen Drew hit in the Boston Red Sox‘ 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night. With the Jays ahead 7-1 entering that frame, it was as close as you could get to garbage time in a game where no time constraints hold you back from a rally.
But the 2-0 pitch from Casey Janssen that jumped off the bat of Drew and landed in the right field bleachers at Rogers Centre was another sign that the 31-year-old shortstop is coming around in the batter’s box after being a virtual automatic out in the order since making his 2014 debut on June 2.
With his second home run in as many games and fourth in the last 13, Drew has shown signs of catching up to major league pitching. That adjustment period was going to come after missing spring training and two months of the MLB season.
Going back to July 5 — a stretch of 13 games — Drew has six extra-base hits, four home runs, nine RBIs and an OPS of .977, despite a batting average (.244) that wouldn’t turn any heads. He’s reached base in the last eight games he’s started, hitting .308/.471/.654 (8-for-26) with four of those eight hits going for extra bases, two of which left the yard.
He looks more like, well, a major league hitter. He looks like a hitter who has gotten his feet under him enough to major league pitching in mid-season form. The surge of Drew could mean two things for the Red Sox, depending on the direction they go in.
Say they opt for going after the AL East, which is well within the realm of possibility despite being 8.5 games out. In a division mired in as much mediocrity as the one the Sox compete in, anything can happen. Ditto if you get one of the five American League playoff bids, as Billy Beane once noted. With a pitching staff as good as any in baseball, the Red Sox could be an offensive shot-in-the-arm away from making a run and catapulting themselves back into it.
Drew is someone who can help provide that shot in the arm. Far from a guy who you build an offense around, he can give you good production out of the ever-crucial sixth or seventh spot in the batting order, an extension of the lineup that Red Sox have missed. Through 100 games of baseball, the Red Sox’ offense has got just .226/.296/.338 (323-for-1,427) of production out of the 6-9 holes in the lineup, with 24 home runs and 137 RBIs.
If Drew can get in the groove he did down the stretch in 2013 — when he hit .292 with an .879 OPS, eight home runs and 35 RBIs over the final eight weeks of the season — he will bring a much-needed answer to what has been one Boston’s biggest problems in 2014.
A potential piece of a run, Drew could also be a potential piece of a deal that can bring a little bit of value Boston’s way should they fall out of the race. As good a defensive shortstop as you’ll find, the potential for such offense out of the shortstop position will catch the eye of suitors.
It was Drew’s offense that helped vault the Red Sox to the top of the American League in the second half of the 2013 regular season, and it was his defense that played a big role in the Red Sox winning their third World Series in the last decade. If he’s anywhere close to that form — as his recent play has indicated — Drew may be the piece that puts a contending team over the top.
The play of Drew — at least on the offensive side — has been the point of much criticism since he hopped on board in early June after the Xander Bogaerts experiment at shortstop failed when he couldn’t hit his way out a paper bag. But when you start as far behind the eight ball as Drew did, an adjustment period is needed. It looks like that adjustment period has passed and Drew is poised for a big final two months, be it in Boston or somewhere else.