Sox benefit from Drew's patience at the plate
Struggling shortstop draws key walk, setting the stage for definitive rally
ST. LOUIS -- Game 3 ended on an obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks, and Game 4 finished with Koji Uehara picking off Kolten Wong.
Game 5 swung on Stephen Drew's walk against Adam Wainwright.
The last may not go down in history as one of baseball's greatest oddities, but the free pass -- which was a key element of the two-run inning that led to Monday's 3-1 Game 5 win and put the Red Sox one win away from a World Series title -- is arguably just as special and surprising considering the circumstances that preceded it.
When Drew stepped to the box in the top of the seventh, with one out and Xander Bogaerts on first in a 1-1 game, the odds were against him. In 23 previous career at-bats against Wainwright, Drew had mustered three hits.
In the 2013 playoffs, Drew was 4-for-49 with 18 strikeouts. In this World Series, he had one hit and six punchouts in 14 at-bats, and he hadn't reached first base safely since the second inning of Wednesday's Game 1.
Drew overcame all that to turn a 1-2 count into a six-pitch walk, moved to third on David Ross' RBI ground-rule double and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury's two-out bloop single -- and he wasn't about to sell that short.
"It was huge, as you can tell," Drew said. "It changed the game."
Wainwright's walk rate during the regular season (1.3) tied him with the Rays' David Price for the second lowest in the Majors, and the pitch he used to uncork three straight balls to Drew (the 12-to-6 curve) is among the most devastating in the game.
"It's not easy," Drew said. "It looks good right there, and then it just drops. He's able to go in and out on it, and that's what makes it so tough."
Drew, batting after Bogaerts hit an up-the-middle single, and desperate to provide some sort of spark for a team that continues to send him out there, fouled off a 1-1 cutter up and in, and he knew that Wainwright would go to the bender next.
"His curveball is dominant," Drew said. "He has a great curveball. I was just able to lay off some tough pitches right there and work the count."
But it wasn't just that. Something had clicked for Drew in his previous at-bat, in the fifth, when he took a first-pitch sinker and flied out to deep right field.
"It's definitely something where you think you see the ball well, and you just take it into the next at-bat," he said.
Maybe the way Drew squared up that ball played into Wainwright's mind when he faced him again in the seventh, or maybe Wainwright was just tired, or maybe it was both. Whatever it was, the ace missed three times with his best pitch against Boston's least offensively imposing player and, as he said, "It really hurt."
"That set up the inning for them," Wainwright added. "I would have liked to attack him a little bit more there, but I just didn't make it happen."
Red Sox fans have been pleading for manager John Farrell to bench Drew, but he wouldn't do it. He knows Drew's defense is too important to this team -- as evidenced by his nice leaping catch on Yadier Molina's liner in the fourth -- and maybe in the back of his mind, he figured the bat would come around, too. Maybe Farrell kept reminding himself of the .320/.417/.578 slash line Drew put up against right-handers in the second half of the regular season.
And maybe Farrell envisioned a moment like Monday's, when Drew prevailed with the deck stacked completely against him.
"You look at short, defense comes first," Drew said. "That's the way I see it. I've played great defense and had some huge plays to save some runs. That's the way I look at it. If I'm not doing it at the plate -- I don't have to prove myself, if you look at my career. Everybody goes through this, and it happened to come in the postseason for me. Hopefully, I'm slowly coming out of it."