Welcome back: Drew provides lift
After missing time with herniated disc, outfielder's bat talks loudly
ANAHEIM -- J.D. Drew entered the American League Division Series knowing his timing would be off after missing the better part of six weeks with a bum back.
But he came through just in time for a Red Sox team that now has a stranglehold on the Angels.
Drew's towering two-run homer off Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez in the top of the ninth inning propelled the Red Sox to a 7-5 win in Game 2 at Angel Stadium and a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series.
Not bad for a guy who is battling a herniated disc and, as recently as a few days ago, was wondering whether or not he'd be physically able to make the club's postseason roster.
"I'm very thankful to be here," Drew said. "I feel really blessed to be able to go out and contribute."
How thankful do you think the Red Sox feel?
All night Friday, the Angels pecked away at what had once been a 5-1 Boston lead. They finally tied it up at 5 in the eighth.
Yet just as quickly as the momentum swung toward the home team and the thunder sticks were rattling, David Ortiz ripped a double off Rodriguez to quiet the crowd. In came pinch-runner Coco Crisp, who could go nowhere when Kevin Youkilis grounded out to third.
So up came Drew, looking only to ground something through a hole in the infield to get the speedy Crisp home.
Quickly, though, Drew found himself in a 2-2 count after he swung and missed a pair of changeups.
"With two strikes," he said, "I was just trying to hit it hard."
He certainly did that. K-Rod delivered another changeup, and Drew belted it out to deep center. The ball kept carrying and carrying, finally landing beyond the center-field wall.
Rodriguez hung his head, while Drew pumped his fists in triumph.
"The momentum," he said, "switched in a hurry."
Getting back up to playing speed after collecting just four at-bats in all of September isn't as easy as flicking a switch, but Drew made it look that way on this night. He went 0-for-4 in Game 1 and admitted his timing was off, but in this one, he went 3-for-5 with an RBI double in the first and a homer that will frequent the highlight reels.
"J.D. was unbelievable coming in there and hitting that ball," Youkilis said. "It was great."
Drew also made a great catch on a Garret Anderson fly ball to the warning track to end the sixth. It appeared the ball might carry out when Anderson connected on a Hideki Okajima pitch, but Drew hauled it in with a beautiful catch at the wall.
"They had me running all over the outfield tonight," Drew said. "I had some fun out there. I don't know what [the catch] looked like on TV. It didn't feel like it was all that great. I just tried to jump into the wall to give myself a little bit of a brace. It worked out well."
Manager Terry Francona's decision to insert Drew back into the lineup for this series worked out pretty well, too.
"I don't think it would surprise me, or I wouldn't have played him," Francona said. "He's tried to grind out his at-bats, and he's not gotten overanxious."
While missing a good chunk of the tail end of the regular season, Drew was anxious to get back on the field. Too often, he wondered if he'd be able to do so.
With one swing of the bat Friday night, he erased all the agony of that wait.
"There's probably no greater feeling as a baseball player," Drew said. "You battle all year to get to this point, and you get to experience that. I hadn't played in six weeks, so I'm thankful to get out there and play with our team. To contribute in a key situation is huge."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.