May 2, 2011

On Baseball
Sox mantra: Forget April

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON — When Jed Lowrie struggled in Portland four years ago, Sea Dogs Manager Arnie Beyeler always spoke of the baseball gods. Play the game right, and it will work out.

Take this weekend, for instance.

Lowrie absolutely crushed a ball in the ninth inning Friday night with Boston losing by a run. The ball was held up by a crosswind and was caught by Seattle center fielder Michael Saunders in the Fenway triangle, over 400 feet from the plate.

In the ninth inning Sunday, Lowrie stepped up after striking out three times. He smacked a slider to deep right field, where Ichiro Suzuki was waiting.

"I knew I got it good," Lowrie said. "But (Suzuki) appeared to camp right under it, which he was."

But Suzuki couldn't follow the ball in the sun and it bounced off his hip, giving Lowrie a triple.

"It seems to even itself out. I'll take it," Lowrie said of the break.

With two outs and Lowrie still on third, Carl Crawford came to bat.

Talk about the baseball gods owing a guy. Crawford, a .296 career hitter, was batting .160.

"Everyone in this clubhouse has been in a slump," said Lowrie, who was hitting .149 after four weeks with the Sea Dogs in 2007 before turning it around.

"Carl is obviously a very talented guy who has been very successful in his career. He's going to be a big part of this team."

Crawford grounded a ball up the middle, scoring Lowrie. Boston beat Seattle, 3-2.

"Everything I hit seems like an out," Crawford said. "To see it get through It's been a while since I felt this good."

After batting .155 in April, Crawford is hitting .500 (2 for 4) this month. And after going 11-15 in April, the Red Sox are undefeated in May.

"As a team, we just wanted to put the month of April behind us," Crawford said. "We wanted to start fresh and act like the month of April never happened."

Boston has had tough months before. The 2004 and 2007 World Series champions both scuffled in June (13-14 in 2004, 11-14 in '07).

But both those teams got off to quick starts in April and May. This team is still trying to figure it out. While the Red Sox were celebrating Sunday, the reality is that they have lost their past two series, to the Orioles and Mariners.

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona is still tweaking a lineup that was supposed to be ready to go, with its experienced players and $162 million payroll.

Now, the rotation is getting a bit of a makeover. Tim Wakefield subbed for an ailing Clay Buchholz on Sunday, and now Francona is changing the order. Buchholz will start tonight, but instead of Josh Beckett following Buchholz, Jon Lester will pitch Tuesday.

After that, it's TBA.

"We want to look at this and see where we're standing," Francona said. "Put everyone in the best position possible."

And Francona may have to rethink the bullpen.

Bobby Jenks was supposed to share the setup role with Daniel Bard, but after he blew a 2-0 lead Sunday, his ERA is 9.35 and his WHIP is 2.54.

"His velocity was better than we've seen," Francona said. "He just wasn't throwing enough strikes.

"We're not going to run from him. He's going to help us win a lot of games."

Francona may be forced, though, to use others in key situations, like Matt Albers (1.13 ERA/0.88 WHIP).

The Red Sox will definitely not be running from Crawford. His struggles have been magnified by Boston's unremarkable start. But the gifted, soft-spoken man from Houston can only keep playing the game right and hope the worst is over.

"It's been tough on me," he said. "I can't sit here and act like it hasn't. I figure if I just keep on keeping on, things will turn around."

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:
kthomas@pressherald.com

 

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