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Drew, Chipper searching at plate10/08/2004 7:41 PM ET
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Posting a career year in home runs and RBIs, J.D. Drew repeatedly picked up the Braves during the regular season.
Now, with the right fielder struggling at the plate, the Braves are even with the Astros in the Division Series because complementary players like Adam LaRoche have stepped up.
Still, Drew remains focused and optimistic that he's due for a turnaround in the postseason.
In the first two games, the Astros have shut down Drew and Chipper Jones. The Braves' third and forth hitters are a combined 1-for-16. Drew is 1-for-8 with two walks and four strikeouts.
"He's been getting a lot of breaking balls thrown at him," hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "The key to him is make sure he's swinging at strikes. He's shown a lot of patience and drawn a lot of walks. He still needs to be a little more selective. We all know J.D. is going to hit, and I told him it better start tomorrow."
Coming off his best season, Drew batted .305 with personal highs of 33 home runs and 93 RBIs. Injury free, he played in 145 games and was a constant when Jones had his struggles.
Jones is in a rut, but this 0-for-8 postseason is partly attributable to a bruised right hand suffered when he was struck by a Carlos Zambrano fastball in the second-to-last game of the season.
With Jones ailing, Drew isn't putting any more pressure on himself.
"I don't think you change anything you've done all year," said Drew, who is a career 6-for-36 (.167) in the NLDS. "It's just a matter of approaching things in a way you have all season, regardless of the situation. You try to take a nice relaxed approach. You've got to take what comes, sometimes. That's the thing about a short series. Some days you're going to make big hits, and some days you're going to make tough outs. In the long run, it's a team effort. That's the nice thing about it. If it was individual effort, we'd all be in trouble. That's the big key.
"If you put a lot of emphasis on one guy a lot of times, you're going to let yourself down, you're going to let your team down. You need to make it a team effort, which baseball is. When the team pulls together and plays as one unit, you win a lot of ballgames."
Of course, it didn't help the heart of the Braves' order that they faced two of the top right-handers in the National League. Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt have a way of lowering everyone's batting averages.
What's encouraging for Atlanta is they are even in the series because of contributions from Rafael Furcal, who belted a walk-off, two-run homer in the 11th inning to win Thursday's game, 4-2, at Turner Field.
"Before this series is over, if we want to move on, myself and J.D. are going to have to do something," Jones said. "We're ready. We're up for it.
"It's hard to hit two guys in the running for the Cy Young Award when you're healthy. When you've got a little ailment, it makes it that much tougher and you've got to make some adjustments. Sometimes you've got to tip your cap to the pitcher."
The Astros start Brandon Backe, who was 5-3 with a 4.30 ERA, in Game 3. Drew has never faced the Astros' right-hander.
While the Braves had managed seven runs in the first two games, they are hoping that Furcal's homer triggers a domino effect.
"It's still a matter of taking a good approach," Drew said. "It's another day. That was a big, big win [Thursday] and definitely a good inspiration. But you've still got to go out there and play fundamental baseball, regardless of the situation. Get good quality [at-bats]. Sometimes you come out on the short end of the stick, and sometimes you come out on top.
"I think the big thing is, the guys behind us, around us, in front of us, have to come up with big hits. The last game, LaRoche had three hits. Fukie [Furcal] came up with some big hits. Those are the guys that can make the difference in playoff time."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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