Pinch of Kalish, a dash of Drew lift Red Sox
OAKLAND, Calif. — Pinch hitting is never easy, for a veteran or a rookie. Coming up to bat with little time to warm up or prepare isn’t a recipe for success — especially if you’ve only done it a handful of times.
So it was that Ryan Kalish stepped to the plate with two outs in the sixth inning yesterday, with two runners on and the Red Sox trailing the A’s by a run, for his fourth-ever pinch-hit appearance in the majors.
The first pitch zipped in. One hundred miles per hour.
“That was the hardest ball I’ve ever seen, for sure,’’ Kalish said.
The second pitch zipped in. Again, 100 miles per hour. Except this time, Kalish reversed the fastball from reliever Henry Rodriguez for a single to left field, scoring Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew and giving the Sox the lead, 4-3. They would hold on, making starter Josh Beckett a winner in a 5-3 triumph that prevented the Sox from being swept by the A’s.
“I just really try and treat it like any other at-bat, obviously,’’ Kalish said. “You know the situation, you know what’s going on. But you go out there having the confidence of everyone for you to come through. No one’s ever comfortable. I don’t ever feel comfortable ’cause I feel like you’ll struggle if you feel too confident. You go up there, I think it’s more about just trying to relax, especially with a guy throwing as hard as he was. You don’t really have to do too much.’’
Said manager Terry Francona, “Sometimes it’s almost easier when you’re young. You’re ready. It’s like, ‘See the ball and hit it,’ which is probably the best thing to do when you’re pinch hitting.’’
The Sox looked as if they might go down again, until Drew and Kalish picked their teammates up in the sixth.
The Sox were down by three runs as Drew stepped to the plate against lefthander Dallas Braden with the bases loaded and two outs. And Drew, who had entered batting .185 against lefties, doubled to left, scoring Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz and bringing the Sox within a run. That brought up Kalish, hitting for Bill Hall.
“We weren’t doing anything,’’ Francona said. “Braden’s changeup, even when we got into hitter’s counts, he’d fall behind 2-0, and he’d change speeds. We got I don’t know how many cue shots or off the end of the bat. He just took the sting out. Fortunately, we strung together enough.’’
Drew wasn’t done, helping the Sox get an insurance run in the eighth. The right fielder got Beltre home from second with an infield single that lefthanded reliever Jerry Blevins then threw away. Drew reached second on the error, though he jammed his right ankle on the play. He also injured his shoulder scoring in the sixth.
“Swing the bat, hit the ball where they ain’t,’’ Drew said. “That works pretty good.’’
Drew had three hits off lefthanders — two singles and a double, plus a walk — improving his average against them in what has been a disappointing season for him overall.
But it wasn’t all good yesterday. For someone often lauded as an excellent baserunner, his laissez-faire return to first base after a single in the fourth was cringe-inducing. It was a mistake worthy of a rookie, not a 13-year veteran, as Drew got thrown out due to the quick reflexes of second baseman Mark Ellis. Fortunately for Drew, it came with no one on, though it did end the inning.
“Just didn’t have enough gas to get to second on the double,’’ Drew said. “I got a little bit too far off, and just didn’t quite get back in time. It was just one of them things, a situation where two outs, it’s not the ideal baserunning blunder that you want to do. But it’s nice to come up with the bases loaded, drive in a couple runs.’’
That made up for a performance by Beckett that wasn’t exactly stellar. Though he got the win, he also gave up three runs in six innings and did something he never had done in his career. In the third he walked Coco Crisp, Daric Barton, Kurt
It was starting to look like just one more unfortunate outing from a pitcher from whom so much more was expected. It was the first time he ever had walked four straight, and the first time he had walked as many as four in an inning since he issued five in the first inning Sept. 23, 2004 for the Marlins against the Phillies.
Beckett left the bases loaded, though, striking out Ellis looking and getting Jeremy Hermida to line to right. He did allow two more runs in the fifth, as Barton (single) and Suzuki (hit by pitch) both scored on an Ellis double to center. It was not inspiring work by Beckett, but it was a win, nonetheless.
“That was kind of a weird outing,’’ Francona said. “He has five walks, but he had four in a row. You’re kind of on the edge of your seat after the third inning.
“JB found a way. He made some big pitches with men on base, wiggled out of it, and gave us a chance to string some stuff together.’’
Beckett’s outing was followed by two excellent innings from Scott Atchison and one by Jonathan Papelbon. Atchison allowed just one infield single, and Papelbon struck out the side (all called) in the ninth to send the Sox on to Seattle.
“We needed a win,’’ Drew said. “It was key to come out, play good today, and we did that.’’