- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- In the aftermath of Stephen Drew’s first walkoff hit as a member of the Red Sox, an 11th-inning double just out of the reach of the Minnesota backup catcher, Ryan Doumit, who was playing left field at the time, let us consider the walkoff hits delivered by Drew’s brother, J.D., in the five years he was a member of the Red Sox.
Let’s see, there was the great comeback in Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS against Tampa Bay, when the Sox rallied from a 7-0 deficit to win, 8-7, the final run scoring on a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth by J.D., who also homered in that game.
And then there were ... give me a minute here, the man played with the Sox for five years, we just have to jog the memory a bit. There were, uh, um ... OK, there was one other. It came on June 4, 2011, in the 571st regular-season game Drew played with the Sox, less than four months before his five-year, $70 million contract with the team expired and he walked away from the game.
Drew, who had struck out four times earlier in the game, singled in the 14th to give the Sox a 9-8 win over the Oakland Athletics. He would play 606 regular-season games for the Sox; that would be his only walkoff hit.
Mr. Excitement, he was not. Not in the clubhouse, where he was always one of the first to leave after a game, never raised his voice, and left the talk to others, only occasionally sharing with outsiders a dry wit that was gentle rather than acerbic.
And not on the diamond, where he fielded his position more than capably but with a minimum of flash and at the plate produced a highlight reel noticeably short of memorable moments, especially in last at-bat scenarios.
Younger brother Stephen, for whom it is a matter of no small importance to be recognized as his own man, delivered his first game-winner in his 21st game with the Sox, one of his four hits on the night, which also included a home run, his second of the season.
How many more will there be? That remains to be seen, especially with Stephen signed only to a one-year deal with the club. But his line drive to left-center just out of Doumit’s reach gave the Drew brothers the distinction, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, of becoming the first set of brothers to have walkoff hits for the Sox since the Conigliaros, Tony for the last time in 1970, Billy in 1971.
Drew’s hit sparked a mad dash from the dugout by his teammates, celebrating their third walkoff win of the year, one that ended a three-game tailspin that was their longest of the young season and did not come without considerable effort by any number of folks:
-- Dustin Pedroia, who also had three hits, including his first home run of the season, which came on a 10-pitch at-bat and broke a 4-all tie in the eighth.
--A lean-on-me 2 1/3 innings of relief from Clayton Mortensen, who ignored his own fatigue to give the depleted and overtaxed Sox bullpen all he had and wound up with his first victory of the season. “Just grind it till they tell me you’re done, or until we win the game,’’ Mortensen said.
-- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose two-out infield single in the 11th was the first of three hits by the Sox in the inning off reliever Jared Burton, Will Middlebrooks lining a single to left before Drew’s game-winner.
“Overall, this was a very tough win, a good comeback win, we continued to grind all the way, the hustle play by Salty to extend the 11th inning, then we strung together a couple of base hits that were the difference,’’ manager John Farrell said. “We didn’t let down; we kept coming.’’
And so, too, did Drew, who began the night batting .182 but singled home a run in the fifth, homered in the seventh to tie the score at 4, singled in the ninth, then hit his game-winning double. The four-hit performance raised his average to .225, a mark of considerable progress for a player who missed most of spring training with a concussion and didn’t join the club until the eighth game of the season.
The only thing that didn’t go right for him was when he was called out at the plate trying to score from first on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double in the fifth, though replays indicated that he was safely across the plate before being tagged by Twins catcher Joe Mauer.
Drew played in just two of the three games in Texas and like the rest of his teammates produced little, going 1 for 7, but in his last eight games, which included a three-hit game and his first home run May 1 in Toronto, Drew is batting .379 (11 for 29) with 9 RBIs.
“More or less just trying to get into rhythm,’’ Drew said. “Been working on things, and tonight was just a good night for me.
“Just a good night. Everybody battled, and Salty runs it out right there, Middlebrooks gets a hit, just kind of starts things. Nobody gives up here, we just go out trying to win games, having fun.’’