Editor’s note: Last night’s powerless display will not be included in the discussion below. Oy.
There was a time not long ago when I was convinced I’d never see Jed Lowrie play meaningful innings with the Boston Red Sox. Beset with injuries (a broken wrist, mono, insert other ailments here) in rapid succession, Lowrie looked not injury prone, but cursed.
It’s no stretch to say that those fears are now unfounded. Lowrie is playing every day, hitting everything in sight, and may or may not have saved four babies from a burning building this weekend.
Living out in Arizona, I experienced his debut and initial success from a distance, catching games on ESPN, reading how he’d run with the starting shortstop position when Julio Lugo was hurt, and watched him prove he belonged in the playoffs — he hit .364 in the American League Division Series against Anaheim, and struggled along with everyone else in the Championship Series against Tampa.
Lowrie played 81 games his rookie year, and the injuries followed. He played just 32 games in 2009, but among those was a come-from-behind win against the Angels, where Lowrie played a key role in a two-run, ninth-inning rally. I was living in Massachusetts again and sitting in the right field grandstand that night, and I became visibly excited to hear Lowrie’s name called to pinch hit for Dusty Brown. He kept the rally going.
He returned last season after his bout with mono looking sharp, with his fielding in tact and his bat holding some pop. In 171 at bats, Lowrie knocked out 9 home runs and hit for a .287 average and a .909 OPS. By the end of the season, Dustin Pedroia was out, Marco Scutaro’s shoulder had exploded and was limited to playing second base, and Lowrie was back at shortstop most games. This spring training, Pedroia was back at second base, Marco Scutaro returned to short, and Lowrie was on the bench waiting for his chance.
And oh, has he made the most of his chance.
Lowrie looks the part of the scrappy masher. His beady eyes peek out from in between a double-flapped batting helmet, a week-old beard covering the rest of his face. He was relegated to a utility role out of Spring Training, so to bump Marco Scutaro out of the lineup, he’d have to hit his way through.
In a brilliant seven-game stretch, from April 9 through 18, Lowrie went 15-for-24 at the plate (that’s a .625 average, if you’re scoring at home) with two home runs and nine RBI. The greatest of them all came on Patriots Day, where he torched the Toronto Blue Jays in his first four at-bats for four hits and a home run on the first eight pitches he saw. In that moment, the roar from the crowd was palpable. Lowrie was killing everything his saw. He could’ve torn down the Green Monster with his bare hands and not a single person would’ve blinked. He was already hot, making his case for the shortstop’s job, but this was other worldly. A strikeout on three pitches in the eighth inning only proved that he was, indeed, only human.
But let’s look at the end of last season, where he was hitting well, and this year, where he’s made the most of his opportunities. It seems pretty clear that Lowrie, if nothing else, should be given the chance to play his way out of the lineup rather than prove himself over Scutaro, himself a solid player, though one without much of a future in Boston beyond 2011.
Has this been a small sample size? Of course. But in the moment, I’m not interested in hearing about trends and spray charts, rationalizing that Lowrie might not be the second-coming of Cal Ripken. When a guy is hot, I like watching him hit. I like letting myself be overcome with excitement when he comes to the plate. I enjoy feeling like I’m watching something amazing. It’s part of the joy of being a baseball fan. There’s something to watching a player who just has complete confidence in themselves, a player who just looks like he should be swining a bat.
Sometimes, guys just look right when they’re swinging the bat. Right now, Jed Lowrie is one of those guys.