Difference is striking to Drew
‘Expanded zone’ has him flustered
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The last time J.D. Drew stepped in against David Price is seared in the memory of most Red Sox fans. With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Series, the Rays rookie lefthander faced Drew with Tampa Bay ahead by two runs. Drew struck out.
Still, because the pair had never faced each other in the regular season, Drew’s line read 0 for 0 going into last night’s game. Then it was 1 for 1 when he singled off Price in the first.
While it didn’t make up for 2009, every hit counts for Drew in a season in which he’s struggled with the strike zone, struggled to get hits, struggled to get on base.
“I’ve questioned the strike zone a lot, just in different at-bats,’’ Drew said. “I feel like it’s definitely been a little bit expanded, and I understand, but that affects the way that I play the game a lot, too.
“When I’m up there in a 3-and-1 count and I feel like it’s ball four and it’s strike two, those things have been difficult.’’
Drew is not alone. There has been a lot of questioning of umpires and strike zones this season. David Ortiz recently called the strike zone “a joke’’ in New York.
The chatter from Drew, though, is particularly unusual. While other players are known for their frequent beefs, that has never been Drew’s way. He usually walks quietly back to the dugout. Not this year.
“I understand that everybody has discrepancies, but you know when the strike zone’s in question, sometimes you go up there and you chase pitches that you normally wouldn’t or you find yourself taking a pitch that you know is a ball,’’ Drew said. “Usually you are awarded first base and instead you’re battling and you ground out or whatever.
“So that affects your at-bat total, your on-base percentage, it affects a lot of things. It affects the way you approach the at-bats in the future.
“I found myself a lot of times chasing pitches that I normally wouldn’t.’’
Perhaps that’s the reason his on-base percentage, almost always .400, was at .350. That’s his lowest since he put up a .349 in 2002 with St. Louis, and the third lowest of his career.
His batting average, meanwhile, was at .261 after going 2 for 4 in the Sox’ 3-1 win last night — also the lowest since he batted .252 in 2002, and again the third lowest of his career.
Asked whether he has a handle on this season’s expanded zone, Drew said, “I’ll let you make a decision on that one. You see what it looks like whenever you watch replays. Those things are in question.’’
According to Drew, it’s not just one umpire. It’s across the game.
“As a hitter, you’re trying to get to 2-and-0 or 2-and-1 or 3-and-1 and get a good pitch to hit,’’ he said. “When it’s not there, 3-and-1 or something, you don’t want to swing at it, you want to turn it over to the next guy. We’ve been a good team that does that.
“When you start seeing those strike zones expanding, you’re kind of questioning if you’re wrong or right. You don’t really know. The next thing you know, you’re swinging at pitches all over the place. And that’s not how I like to play the game.’’
Cameron played just 48 games this season, getting 162 at-bats, nearly all of them in pain.
According to manager Terry Francona, the surgery was a bilateral sports hernia repair and bilateral groin release.
“They stitched in the mesh and the adductor groin to kind of . . . take the pressure off a little bit,’’ Francona said. “And what they said was that it was very obvious he needed surgery.’’
Francona reported that everything went well and Cameron should be able to have a normal offseason.
Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report.