Lowrie’s HR picks up Sox in 11th inning
After fielding miscue, he delivers at the plate
Jed Lowrie spent the better part of four months trapped in baseball exile, assigned to the Sox training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., recovering from mononucleosis, a virus that usually keeps teenagers out of math class, not professional athletes out of uniform.
His regimen was endless hours of sleep, reporting to the field for a few minutes, then returning to his apartment to nap again.
“I would show them I was alive,’’ Lowrie said. “Being in Fort Myers during the year is never where you want to be. But I could have been in Las Vegas and had a miserable time. I really felt terrible.’’
That’s what made last night’s events at Fenway Park so gratifying.
The once-forgotten player helped his teammates remember what it’s like to celebrate. Lowrie led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a home run to give the Red Sox a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
It was only the fifth victory in 14 extra-inning games for the Red Sox, who mobbed Lowrie as he crossed the plate.
Jonathan Papelbon (5-5) worked a scoreless inning for the win. He, Daniel Bard, and Daisuke Matsuzaka held Toronto without a run for the final five innings, putting one runner on base.
“Walkoffs are always nice,’’ said Bard, who needed only 13 pitches to dispose of six hitters. “They can get you going.’’
But the win did not change the standings as the Yankees and Rays also won. The Sox remain 6 1/2 games out in the division and 5 1/2 games behind in the wild card.
Lowrie went home the hero, only a few minutes after he made a silly mistake. With two outs in the top of the 11th, Lowrie dropped a foul pop off the bat of John Buck.
The error opened a door that Papelbon swiftly closed by getting Buck to swing with a split-finger fastball that dove to the bottom of the strike zone.
“I couldn’t believe I did that,’’ Lowrie said. “But you can’t take it to the plate with you.’’
Lowrie, who came into the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth led off the 11th. He had never before faced Toronto reliever Casey Janssen and took the first pitch for a strike.
At 2-and-2, Janssen left a curveball high in the strike zone. Lowrie drove it just over the Red Sox bullpen in right center.
“I knew I hit it well,’’ Lowrie said. “But it’s a long ways out there at Fenway. I was just watching Jose [Bautista, the right fielder] run after it and hoping it would keep going.
Lowrie is 19 of 60 since returning with 10 hits for extra bases. The home run was his third.
“He’s got gap power. But he can drive the ball out of the ballpark,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “That’s not a surprise. That’s why we wanted him healthy because he can be that type of hitter.’’
Lowrie feels better now, but the Sox still try to rest him at least once every three games. He had to leave a game in Texas earlier this month because of heat exhaustion.
“I wasn’t even thinking about playing for a long time,’’ Lowrie said.
“I knew in my heart I’d play again but I wasn’t focused on that at the time . . . That’s what makes helping this team win games so much fun.’’
Victor Martinez was 3 for 5 and drove in three runs for the Sox, who let a 4-1 lead get away, but came back for their seventh walk-off victory of the season.
The win came a day after a devastating 16-2 loss against the Jays.
“We just worry about coming here every day and keep playing hard,’’ Martinez said. “See what happens.’’
Matsuzaka allowed four runs over eight innings, giving the Sox what they needed after the bullpen was called upon for seven innings on Friday. He retired the last seven batters he faced and left with the score tied, 4-4.
But there was no reward for Matsuzaka as the Sox left runners stranded at first and second in the bottom of the inning.
Toronto starter Ricky Romero came into the game 1-4 with an 8.51 earned run average in seven career starts against the Sox. That included two starts this season that saw him allow 10 earned runs on 13 hits and five walks over 8 1/3 innings.
It took until the third inning for the Sox to get to him last night with Martinez getting a two-run single. RBI singles by Martinez and Adrian Beltre made it 4-1 in the sixth inning.
Matsuzaka allowed three runs in the sixth, two on a home run by Lyle Overbay, his third in the last two nights. Matsuzaka was supposed to keep the ball away from Overbay, but left a fastball up and over the plate.
“That was disappointing,’’ Francona said. “Other than that, he was pretty good. Daisuke did a good job getting where he did.’’
Matsuzaka allowed six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts. The eight innings matched his season high.