10/03/07 2:37 AM ET
Drew pulls double duty in Game 1
D-backs shortstop clutch with the bat and glove in NLDS
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
Really, no one would have blamed or questioned the Diamondbacks' 24-year-old shortstop for wanting to take his .238 batting average from the regular season and all of the misery that went with it and banish it from sight forever.
But Drew had a different take on the offensive struggles from his first full season in the Major Leagues. He decided to learn from them, not dispose of them.
"Sure, there's have been ups and downs and it's frustrating at one point, but it's also not, because we were winning," Drew said. "I had to keep battling and playing every day. It can be a grind. Some days you're going to be good, some days you're going to be bad."
Drew was plenty good on Wednesday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, as he had two hits off Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, including a home run in the fourth inning that helped propel Arizona to a 3-1 victory over the Cubs at Chase Field.
Drew also made every play on every ball hit his way, including a diving stop of Geovany Soto's screamer in the fourth inning with a runner on that he made look easy, as he got to his feet and fired a seed to first baseman Tony Clark for the third out.
"Playing defense behind [starting pitcher Brandon Webb], I mean, it's fun to play behind him because you know you're going to get a lot of ground balls, which is great for me. It was exciting."
And so, too, was Drew's day at the plate against one of the premier starting pitchers in the National League, even if he hadn't faced Zambrano before in his career, which served as the perfect metaphor for a team lacking big-game experience.
"Although I'm sure he didn't do what he wanted to this season [offensively], at no point in time did he let it affect his defense," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's been stellar defensively all year. To watch him grow up and mature, I'm excited about the possibilities moving forward.
"I've told him on more than one occasion how proud I am of what he's accomplished this year. You have an opportunity when things don't go the way that you want. You can either throw in the towel and shut it down, or find a way. He has found a way all year."
It just wasn't always easy, as Drew, like many young hitters, struggled with consistency at the plate, especially early in the season. He was hitting .228 at late as Sept. 21 before finishing with five multi-hit games over the final week of the season to lift his average to .238.
"To wipe the slate clean to an extent gives you a breath of fresh air," Melvin said. "Stephen has been swinging it pretty well, and I think we all feel he's going to be a nice offensive player, either way. Sometimes it can take a little bit of the edge off when you're constantly trying to grind and grind to get your average up there when you have the amount of at-bats where it's difficult to do."
On Wednesday, Drew was called out on strikes in his first at-bat against Zambrano, as he took a fastball on the outside corner for the third strike. In his next at-bat, Drew watched a slider miss inside for a ball before jumping on a fastball away -- much like the very pitch that he struck out on -- driving it over the wall in right-center for a 1-0 lead.
"[Zambrano] has got good stuff ...and when you haven't faced him before, you're just trying to get a good pitch and hit it in the gap," he said. "Hopefully something works out."
It certainly did on Wednesday for Drew, who is buoyed by his struggles, not ashamed of them.
"It makes you stronger as a man," Drew said, after the glow of the television cameras had run off elsewhere. "It's a plus for me now, because now I can understand what it means to grind. For me to experience it this year was a plus."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.