Notes: Lowell ripping cover off ball
Third baseman providing powerful punch to Sox's lineup
BOSTON -- It's enough for opposing pitchers to have to deal with the imposing tandem of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Now they have a whole new headache in Mike Lowell, who is ripping the ball at such a torrid pace that he entered the second game of Saturday's day-night doubleheader leading the Red Sox in RBIs with 35.
With eight homers on the season -- the last of which was a grand slam that fueled the Red Sox to a 13-3 romp in the opener of the twin bill - Lowell is just one behind Big Papi for the team lead in that category.
"I'm in a great situation," said Lowell, who went 4-for-5 to raise his average to .333. "With David, Manny and J.D. [Drew], those are three high on-base percentage guys. That gives me opportunities. I'm just satisfied that I'm doing a good job driving in runs. I like those situations. I like to hit with runners in scoring position. I feel l have a good mind-set for it."
The grand slam was the sixth of Lowell's career. During his 10-game hitting streak, Lowell hit .447 with two doubles, four homers and 17 RBIs.
"Tremendous," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Mike also brings a phenomenal glove at third. He's come up with a lot of big hits for us. He's swung the bat extremely well. That was a big grand slam. The game was still pretty close."
Historically, Lowell has been a fast starter. Just don't ask him why.
"If I knew, I'd [do it] in July, August and September," said Lowell.
When Lowell is hot, it makes the Red Sox's lineup thicker.
"He's given us production out of that six-hole," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "In our batting order, that's going to be a huge spot."
Resting the troops: The Red Sox are in the midst of a schedule that could wear them down. However, Francona is determined not to let it.
There was a day-night doubleheader on Thursday. Thanks to a rainout Friday, Francona's crew played another twin bill Saturday. Throw in a 2:05 p.m. ET contest on Sunday, and it makes for a chaotic weekend.
"We've got three games in 24 hours," Francona said. "We're going to try to play two out of three with most of the guys. Mathematically, it just doesn't work out where you can do it with everybody. We're going to try to have everybody play two and still win the games. Set good lineups. And we'll try to kind of mix and match and keep good lineups out there and keep guys healthy and productive in the meantime."
Lowell started both games of the doubleheader but will get Sunday off against Tim Hudson. Drew, coming off a low back contusion, started Game 1 and sat out the nightcap. He'll return to right field on Sunday.
"We're always looking for balance in the lineup and things like that," Francona said. "There's some days we play more bench players than normal and we have good balance in our lineup. We try to do that. On days like this, we want to strike a good balance and not overdo anybody either."
Lester on comeback trail: In his Saturday night start at Triple-A Pawtucket, Jon Lester pitched 3 2/3 shutout innings, allowing one hit and one walk and striking out two. He threw 48 pitches, 29 for strikes, and figures to be on track with his rehabilitation from an April forearm strain. He has not pitched in Boston since he was diagnosed with lymphoma last August.
Tito on talk radio: In light of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen calling a talk show in Chicago and using profane language to object to the content of the show, Francona was asked if he listens to talk radio, which is enormously popular in Boston.
"That would be a no," said Francona, who does do a weekly spot on a midday show on WEEI-850 AM. "The only time I ever listen is on Wednesdays, when I have to do something with Dale [Arnold] and Michael [Holley], and I might flick it on on my way in just to see what I need to stay ahead of. Other than that, it just doesn't help me do my job. Why listen? It's like reading the paper. If you wake up to jump to see how you're being perceived, it's got to affect the way you do your job -- good, bad or in between. I'd rather do what I'm going to do and answer the questions and move on."
Tracking Timlin: Mike Timlin was set to continue his throwing program on Saturday, throwing at 90 and 120 feet. If all goes well, the setup man will do the same thing on Monday, but finish that session with some throws off the mound. That would mark the first time Timlin has stepped on a mound since being placed on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on May 3.
Perfect 10: How rare was it to see the Red Sox arrive to Fenway Park on Saturday with a 10-game lead in the American League East? It marked the largest margin the Red Sox have had this early in the season in club history. The pennant-winning Sox of 1946 held a 10-game edge on June 11. Even more interesting was that this marked just the second time in Major League history that a team held a lead of at least 10 games 40 games into the season. The first team to do so? The 2001 Settle Mariners.
On deck: Left-hander Kason Gabbard is all but certain to be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket in time to start Sunday's finale of this three-game series against the Braves. Hudson, who is off to a terrific start, counters for Atlanta.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.