The Bats Are Back

It's no fluke: The Red Sox' lineup is clicking on all cylinders.

The Sox continued their offensive resurgence Saturday by scoring seven runs in the fifth inning on their way to throttling the Reds, 16-6, in a Grapefruit League game at City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers, FL. The win extended the Sox' unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2) and lifted their record to 7-8-2.

J.D. Drew and non-roster invitee Joe Thurston had three hits apiece for the Sox, who racked up 18 hits overall and scored in every inning except the fifth and seventh. Jason Varitek hit a three-run homer while Drew, Kevin Youkilis and minor leaguer Reid Engel all had two RBI each. Brandon Moss and Andrew Pinckney each hit a solo homer. Pinckney's blast is the one to tell the grandkids about: Not only did he deliver it in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League season, but he did it as a pinch-hitter for David Ortiz.

Julio Lugo returned to the lineup after missing 12 days with a sore back and had two hits as the leadoff hitter for the Sox, who have scored 38 runs in their last four games. They scored just 47 runs in their first 13 Grapefruit League contests.

Starting pitcher Jon Lester benefited from the big bats as he earned his first win of the spring by allowing three runs on four hits over four innings. Lester, whose ERA rose to 6.00, struck out three and walked one.

"I'm kind of at that point of spring where your body is getting used to throwing again and getting used to pitches and all that," Lester told reporters afterward. "But I feel all right. I feel like every start, I've gotten better in some areas and [he'll] just keep building and getting stronger."

Terry Francona was impressed with the maturity this spring of Lester, who may start one of the Sox' two games in Japan now that it appears as if staff ace Josh Beckett won't be making the trip due to his sore back. "We're trying to get close to the season, use some things, sequences that will be more realistic as the season progresses," Francona told reporters. "I think he's staying in his delivery real well. His presence out there, he looks like a major league pitcher."

Lester was followed by Bryan Corey, who helped his chances of winning the last spot in the bullpen by allowing three hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings to lower his spring ERA to 1.17. Corey's main competition for the spot, right-hander David Aardsma, didn't help himself by relieving Corey and giving up two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning. Javier Lopez gave up a run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings before Craig Hansen, a long-shot contender for the lone bullpen opening, tossed a scoreless ninth.

The Sox will attempt to climb to .500 Sunday, when they travel to Bradenton, FL to take on the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. Kyle Snyder, still vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, is scheduled to start for the Sox.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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