Red Sox Memories: J.D. Drew’s $70 million grand slam in 2007 ALCS

ST PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 16: J.D. Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on July 16, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 16: J.D. Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on July 16, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images) /

J.D. Drew’s grand slam in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS against the Cleveland Indians salvaged a disappointing debut season with the Boston Red Sox.

It took some time for Boston Red Sox fans to warm up to J.D. Drew. His emotionless demeanor on the field was almost robotic and the graceful way he played the game appeared effortless. This created a misconception that Drew simply didn’t care, a perception magnified by his disappointing debut season with the club after signing a lucrative free-agent deal. Fans were ready to run Drew out of town but that all changed with one shining postseason moment.

The Red Sox inked Drew to a five-year, $70 million deal prior to the 2007 season. Players making that much money are expected to deliver star-caliber production and for hitters that often means 30 homers and 100 RBI are benchmarks they should at least approach annually.

Except that wasn’t the type of player Drew was. He only topped those figures once and his career-high 31 homers and 100 RBI didn’t even come in the same season. It was unreasonable to assume he’d hit those marks when he joined the Red Sox. Drew’s best traits were getting on base, playing great defense and doing the little things to help his team win. It wasn’t flashy but it was effective.

His first year in Boston was a massive disappointment even by those standards. Drew hit .270 with a .796 OPS, 11 home runs and 64 RBI in 2007, his worst season since his rookie campaign.

A chance for redemption would come on the October stage and Drew came through in dramatic fashion in Game 6 of the ALCS.

After winning the series-opener at home, Boston dropped three straight against the Cleveland Indians to put their backs against the wall. They stayed alive with a win in the final game in Cleveland but needed consecutive wins at Fenway Park in order to advance to the World Series.

The Red Sox wasted little time jumping on the Indians in Game 6. They led off the bottom of the first inning with consecutive infield singles by Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis followed by a David Ortiz walk to load the bases.

Manny Ramirez struck out swinging and Mike Lowell hit a harmless fly ball to right field. Boston was in danger of spoiling a prime bases-loaded opportunity that would have brought their momentum to a screeching halt.

Drew patiently worked the count in his favor to get ahead 3-1 against Fausto Carmona (now known under his real name, Roberto Hernandez). He took ball three on a pitch outside and Carmona overcompensated when trying to work his way back into the strike zone. He left one right over the middle and Drew hammered it to deep center field for a grand slam.

With one swing, Drew erased a season’s worth of frustration and staked the Red Sox to an early 4-0 lead.

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Four runs may seem insignificant in a game the Red Sox went on to win 12-2 but the outcome could have been drastically different if it weren’t for Drew’s grand slam. Boston’s next run came in the third inning on an RBI base hit from Drew that chased Carmona from the game. The offensive onslaught continued with five more runs in the frame against reliever Rafael Perez.

Cleveland expected more from Carmona, who finished fourth on the Cy Young ballot that season. If he got out of the first-inning jam without coughing up the grand slam to Drew, Boston wouldn’t get to the Indians bullpen early. Drew’s third-inning single would have tied the game instead of expanding the lead and if Carmona settles down after that, we might have had a tight ballgame instead of one the Red Sox ran away with.

Drew opened the floodgates with what would become known as the $70 million grand slam. His lackluster performance during the regular season was quickly forgiven when the Red Sox went on to win Game 7 and sweep the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.

Drew bounced back with the lone All-Star campaign of his career in 2008. He’d have three consecutive solid seasons with the Red Sox before retiring at the end of a dismal injury-plagued 2011 season.

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His tenure with the Red Sox got off to a rocky start and ended on a whimper but his series-altering grand slam in the ’07 ALCS made his contract worthwhile.