Red Sox notebook

Drew's power has impressed one big slugger

J.D. DREW Torrid month J.D. DREW Torrid month
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / June 20, 2008

Count Manny Ramírez among those impressed with J.D. Drew as he enters this weekend's series against the St. Louis Cardinals as the majors' leading hitter this month, ahead of two Yankees, Johnny Damon (.434, 33 for 76) and Alex Rodriguez (.431, 28 for 65).

Drew is batting .441 (26 for 59), one of five big leaguers who began play yesterday batting over .400 for the month. Vladimir Guerrero (.417) of the Angels and Jose Guillen (.412) of the Royals were the others; no National Leaguers were over .400 for the month.

"He's hitting the [stuffing] out of the ball," Ramírez said during the Red Sox' six-game swing through Cincinnati and Philadelphia. "And that guy's got so much power - wow - for his size. He hits the ball as far as David [Ortiz]. David's 6-4, 270, and J.D.'s, what, 6-2, 210. And he's hitting the ball like that, like David."

Drew is listed at 6 feet 1 inch and 200 pounds. He is leading the majors in home runs for the month with nine, including seven in his last 10 games. His total is one more than Marcus Thames of the Tigers, and Russell Branyan leads the NL with eight for the Brewers.

Drew and Ryan Howard of the Phillies are tied for most RBIs in the month with 21, with Rodriguez at 20.

Ramírez, incidentally, should be back in the lineup tonight against the Cardinals, having had the last two days to rest his tender right hamstring.

The Sox have sat him after they've seen his right leg buckle during an at-bat, the way it did in the seventh inning Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

His demeanor continues to be open and engaging, a far cry from past seasons, and he's even joked about his injury, cracking, "I'm alive!" the other day when he was put back in the lineup.

"Sometimes you get so confused," Ramírez said in an elliptical reference to some of his past issues here. "But I'm glad I'm back and turned it around, and moved on."

The attitude adjustment, of course, comes in a year the Sox must decide by November whether to exercise their option on his 2009 contract.

Feasting on NL

The Sox are 7-2 halfway through the interleague portion of their schedule, with their next six games at home against NL opponents, three apiece against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks, then three next weekend in Houston.

The Red Sox, White Sox, and Royals had the best records in interleague play this season entering last night. The Cardinals are 2-4, having just lost three straight to the Royals, matching their longest losing streak of the season.

Only four NL teams had a winning interleague record at the start of play yesterday: the Rockies and Mets were 6-2, the Reds 4-2, and the Braves 5-4. That only bolsters the argument that the balance of power favors the AL: Three of the last four World Series have ended in four-game sweeps by AL teams, including Boston's sweep of St. Louis in 2004; and the AL has won 10 of the last 11 All-Star Games, with a 7-7 tie in 2002.

Even though manager Terry Francona would happily dispense with the practice, the Sox have fattened up on NL teams since the start of 2006, with a 35-10 record.

Big difference

Having won their last three series on the road, against the Orioles, Reds, and Phillies, the Sox seem to have put an end to their early-season woes away from home. Now they return to Fenway with a chance to build on the league's best home record, 28-7.

The run differential in games at Fenway is enormous. The Sox have outscored opponents, 209-133, a plus-76 differential, or by more than two runs a game. On the road, where the Sox are 18-22, they have been outscored by opponents, 174-180, a minus-6 differential.

A good barometer of how a team is faring is its record in games decided by five or more runs. Lopsided games, in the view of statistical analysts, aren't affected by the randomness factor that so often comes into play in one-run games. The Orioles, for example, have already been involved in a startling 27 games decided by a run, and are 17-10. But in games decided by five runs or more, they're only 5-9.

The Sox, meanwhile, have a 13-6 record in games decided by five runs or more, including last Sunday's 9-0 whitewash of the Reds. The White Sox, who lead the AL Central, are 14-5 in such games, while the cross-town Cubs, who have the NL's best record, are 14-4. The Angels, who lead the AL West, show that the five-run game is not always the best indicator; they're only 6-10.

Kielty injured again

Bobby Kielty's 2007 season was nearly ruined by injuries; he tore a calf muscle, wound up being designated for assignment by Oakland, and didn't sign with the Sox until August. This season, Kielty required hand surgery at the outset, returned to Triple A Pawtucket, and last week went back on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle . . . Daisuke Matsuzaka, who tomorrow makes his first start for the Sox since being placed on the DL May 30 (retroactive to May 28) with a rotator cuff strain, threw yesterday at Fenway, along with Jon Lester . . . The Sox plan to wear green jerseys tonight to honor the Celtics; a pregame ceremony also is planned.

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