McDonald continues to wield hot stick
Outfielder bashes second homer in as many nights for Sox
BOSTON -- Darnell McDonald's storybook beginning with the Red Sox continued to gain steam on Wednesday night, when the right-handed-hitting center fielder -- making his first start for the team -- belted a home run over the wall in center in the bottom of the fourth inning. His second long ball in as many nights gave the Red Sox an early two-run lead in a game they would eventually win, 8-7, over the Rangers.
With that flick of his wrists, McDonald became the first Boston player since Sam Horn (July 25-26, 1987) to homer in his first two games with the team.
On Tuesday, McDonald introduced himself to Boston fans by clubbing a pinch-hit, game-tying two-run homer in the eighth and then slamming a walk-off single off the Green Monster with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The 7-6 victory by the Red Sox snapped a five-game losing streak. Boston summoned McDonald from Triple-A Pawtucket after placing starting outfielders Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day disabled list.
McDonald seems to be enthusiastic as it is. But before Wednesday's game, the outfielder seemed to be beaming a little more than usual. He truly discovered the identity that comes with being a hero for the Red Sox, as his cellphone was on overdrive on Wednesday.
"Yeah, [my] phone has been blowing up," McDonald said. "A lot of text messages, a lot of calls. You know, it feels good to know a lot of people care about you, a lot of people are watching. And that's the beautiful thing about playing in Boston."
Did McDonald remember having so many friends?
"Man, I had people from high school calling," McDonald said. "People, I don't know how they got my number, but they did. I don't mind. I enjoy knowing that people are watching what I'm doing and care about me."
For McDonald, the night was sweet payoff for so many years in the Minors.
"For me, every year I set out to improve on the things I did last year," McDonald said. "I believed I could play in the big leagues some day. Those are the things that kept me going. What happened last night, that was the reason I signed over here, for opportunities like that. It came early, and it was unexpected, but you've always got to be prepared, and when they call your name, you never know."
Drew's slam snaps skid at plate
BOSTON -- For all the talk about the slump of David Ortiz, J.D. Drew was perhaps in an even bigger tailspin, at least until the bottom of the third inning on Wednesday night.
That was when Drew took a swing that he hopes will change his recent misfortunes. The right fielder lined a grand slam down the right-field line that erased a three-run deficit and proved to be a key in Boston's 8-7 win over Texas in 12 innings.
Drew, as is often the case following home games, had already left Fenway Park by the time the clubhouse was open to the media.
His teammates were more than happy to talk about what they hope will be a turning-point moment for the veteran left-handed hitter.
"It was good," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "J.D.'s [homer] was great. Right down the line, a grand slam and it put us right back in the game. That was huge. That was the swing of the game. That's just a good thing for J.D., just for his psyche. [He's been] having good at-bats and he's been swinging the bat sometimes and lining out. It was very good that ball went in the right spot for a grand slam. J.D. is going to be good down the road. He's going to do some good things. He just has to figure it all out."
Drew has hit second the past two days in manager Terry Francona's reshuffled batting order. He went 1-for-5 on Wednesday night and is hitting .140 with two homers and six RBIs.
"He stayed back enough and used his hands, and hit it right where we needed him to hit it," said Francona. "So that changed the game in a hurry."
It was the fifth grand slam of Drew's career.
Matsuzaka completes rehab stint
BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka completed his Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday, turning in another strong performance.
In a game played in Allentown, Pa., Matsuzaka scattered six hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out eight. He threw 99 pitches, 66 for strikes, and gave up four runs, three of which were earned.
Dice-K will return to Boston's rotation next week, most likely during the club's three-game series at Toronto, which starts Monday. The Red Sox have yet to say how they will finagle Matsuzaka into a rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz.
Matsuzaka started the season on the disabled list because of an upper back issue that slowed him at the beginning of Spring Training. He posted a 1.62 ERA in three games for Pawtucket, walking one and striking out 13.
Big Papi searching for groove
BOSTON -- Not only did David Ortiz have another tough night on Tuesday, but for the first time since 2003, he was pinch-hit for during a game that was still hanging in the balance. With lefty Matt Harrison on the mound for the Rangers on Wednesday night, Ortiz was replaced in the designated-hitter slot by Mike Lowell, who also pinch-hit for him on Tuesday. Southpaw C.J. Wilson is on tap for Thursday's series finale, and Red Sox manager Terry Francona did not rule out Ortiz sitting out that one as well.
Lowell made an instant statement in the second inning of Wednesday's game, bashing a solo homer over the Green Monster.
One thing Ortiz will do is continue to work. Four hours before Wednesday's game, Ortiz was on the field in workout shorts and a T-shirt taking extra batting practice. He met with Francona in the manager's office in the pregame hours as well, and the topic of Lowell's pinch-hitting appearance came up.
"He didn't fight me on it," Francona said. "I don't know what was said last night. I wouldn't expect anybody, when we pinch-hit for them, to come back and high-five us. He has a lot of pride. He's been an unbelievable player here. I just wanted him to know that we care about all our players and we try to do what we think is right for our team. That's basically what it is."
While Ortiz opted not to formally speak with the media after Tuesday night's game and before Wednesday's game, he seemed to be in good spirits.
The lefty slugger is hitting .146 with no homers and two RBIs.
"Well, he went out today and took extra hitting," Francona said. "And actually, he swung the bat good. He's trying to get his base where he can stay back, because his hands are following his body. When your base [goes], if your head goes, and your hands, everything kind of goes in sync. You can talk about having a loop in your swing or not getting to pitches. But he really wants to try to stay on that back leg so he can start driving the ball to left-center. If he feels like he can drive the ball to left-center, he'll cover more of the plate."
Martinez's mechanics out of whack
BOSTON -- Victor Martinez, who was behind the plate when the Rangers broke a club record with nine stolen bases on Tuesday night, was not in Red Sox manager Terry Francona's starting lineup for Wednesday's game.
Martinez has been struggling with his throwing mechanics this season, as 24 of 25 basestealers have been successful against him. Many times when Martinez doesn't catch, he either plays first or designated hitter. But Francona didn't dispute that a complete night off might be good for Martinez.
"It was a difficult night, and that would be the hope," Francona said. "That's what we're always trying to do -- let him have a good workday where you don't have the game hanging over your head. There's always a lot of stuff that we do prior to the game. But when the game is hanging over your head, this way you can work and kind of take a breath."
During batting practice, Martinez spent some time with his 5-year-old son, Victor Jr. In fact, when the clubhouse opened after batting practice, MLB Network's batting practice camera was on television in the Boston clubhouse, and the younger Martinez happily watched video of himself taking BP. The elder Martinez laughed with his son on his lap as they surveyed the scene. Perhaps the light moment was a nice source of relief for Martinez, who takes his responsibilities very seriously on both sides of the ball.
"I'm the one who has to catch the ball and get it out there," Martinez said after Tuesday night's 7-6 win. "I'm not doing it right now. But like I say, it's a long season and I still have a lot of work to do. Like I've always been [doing], I'm never going to give up. I'm going to keep working on it and see what happens."
What are Martinez's throwing problems stemming from?
"Probably a little bit of everything," Francona said. "Again, and [Tim Wakefield] is a special breed. That was kind of the perfect storm last night. He's rushing, and when he rushes, he's going high on the arm side, which we all see. At the same time, the one guy, when Wake pitches, you can't come get the ball. It has to come to you or he's going to end up chasing it. We had a bunch of hits, we had a bunch of walks and we had guys on base that we were having a tough time stopping. It was difficult."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.