It’s a good bet the city—and Lowell’s teammates—are even fonder of him today.
Lowell had three hits and four RBI and provided some retaliation for Scott Proctor’s beaning of Kevin Youkilis a night earlier by leveling Robinson Cano during a double play in the fourth inning as the Sox came back from a trio of deficits to beat the Yankees, 11-6, in front of a sellout crowd of 36,294 at Fenway Park.
“[Lowell] was huge on both sides of the line,” Curt Schilling said.
And, particularly, inside the base paths. Of all Lowell’s hits Saturday, none resonated quite as much as the one he delivered to Cano. With the bases loaded, none out and the Sox leading 2-1 following Lowell’s RBI single, Jason Varitek grounded to Cano, who charged, fielded the ball and moved to tag Lowell. Lowell slowed up, forcing Cano to move a couple steps towards Lowell. But as Cano applied the tag, Lowell lowered his left shoulder and body checked Cano as he threw to first to complete the double play.
The force of the hit sent Lowell’s helmet flying. He walked slowly off the field, leaving the helmet on the infield and never looking back, and was greeted by a bevy of high-fives as he stepped into the dugout.
“I don’t know if it gave us a charge,” Javier Lopez said. “Both teams are going to play the game hard. It’s one of those plays you don’t see very often. We’re both teams that have a lot of passion for this game—play very hard, especially against each other. It’s nice to see it.”
Cano, who sat silently and stared out towards left field as Lowell walked off the field, didn’t react quite like Youkilis, who unleashed a torrent of profanity at Proctor and had to be restrained from going after him by three people. But afterward, Cano didn’t sound pleased to be on the receiving end of what looked to be a retaliatory action.
“I never had a problem with him before,” Cano told reporters. “Today he threw his elbow.”
Lowell and the Sox, like Proctor and the Yankees a night earlier, said there was no extra meaning behind the shove. “They taught me how to do it,” said Lowell, a former Yankees farmhand.
“I bet you Cano was off-balance, and he was just trying to do what you need to do, nothing malicious there,” Terry Francona said.
Lowell was also involved in another, more freakish collision at first base in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, none out and the Yankees clinging to a 6-5 lead, Lowell hit a grounder to Cano, who fired to Derek Jeter for a force. But Jeter, the two-time Gold Glove winner, bounced the throw to Doug Mientkiewicz. As Mientkiewicz looked downward to try and field the throw, Lowell’s knee caught him in the wrist and the neck, causing his head to snap back.
Mientkiewicz dropped to the field and didn’t move for several minutes. He was diagnosed with a concussion, cervical sprain and a broken wrist and will be placed on the disabled list today.
“That looked like [Lowell] tried to somehow not hit him,” Francona said. “That was almost inevitable. It was just two bodies in the way of each other. That’s tough—makes you nervous, regardless of what team you’re with.”
While there may have been some room for interpretation in Lowell’s collision with Cano, there was no missing the message sent within the Sox’ multiple comebacks and what the Yankees’ inability to maintain a lead means to their chances of crawling back into the playoff race.
Lost in the hysteria of the Proctor-Youkilis drama Friday was the fact the Yankees had to use seven pitchers in a game they won by four runs. So when Mussina failed to record an out in the sixth, Torre had to turn a tie game over to the overworked Proctor, who, much to the delight of the crowd, absorbed the loss after allowing five runs (two earned) in 1 1/3 innings, during which he threw just 17 of his 38 pitches for strikes.
The Sox, meanwhile, survived a subpar outing from Schilling (four runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out two in five-plus innings) and inconsistency from middle relievers Lopez (one run in 1 1/3 innings) and Joel Pineiro (one run in one-third of an inning) to come back from deficits of 1-0, 5-3 and 6-5 and get the ball to Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, who combined to throw 2 1/3 hitless innings.
“Obviously, our team can score some runs—[they] knew that coming into spring training,” Lopez said. “To have a couple of us give up some runs and still be able to come back and battle back and work our way to Okajima and Papelbon [is] great. It’s nice to see we’re resilient like that.”
The Sox snapped a two-game losing streak and have yet to drop three in a row this season, a feat matched only by the Mets. “The biggest thing is the losing streak that just ended,” said Kevin Youkilis when asked about the end of his 23-game hitting streak. “That’s the one we should be talking about.”
And when it comes to Lowell’s hits Saturday, you can bet the one the Sox will be talking about the rest of the season occurred on the base paths, not at the plate.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-979-0979.