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Drew Keeps Eyes on What Needs to Be Done

Now healthy, he answers critics with his passion and clutch hitting down the stretch for Dodgers.

September 24, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

About an hour before the Dodgers played their penultimate home game of the season, J.D. Drew emerged from another lengthy session in the trainer's room.

The right fielder inspected a case of autographed baseballs in one corner of the clubhouse, selected one and dropped it into the open end of a clean white athletic sock, presumably to prevent smudging.

As he walked back toward his locker, the normally accommodating Drew declined an interview request, saying he had to get ready for the game.

It seems as if it's all baseball all the time for Drew these days, and the Dodgers couldn't be more thrilled.

Limited to 72 games last season by a broken wrist and other injuries, Drew played in his 140th game of 2006 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. He could play in as many as 147 games this season, which would break the career high of 145 he set during his breakthrough 2004 season with the Atlanta Braves.

Coming off off-season wrist and shoulder surgeries, Drew has endured his share of nicks this season, though none serious enough to sideline him for an extended period.

Of course, Drew has done more than merely find his way into the lineup in his second season with the Dodgers. His first-inning double that rolled to the wall in left-center field drove in Nomar Garciaparra and marked his 93rd run batted in of the season, tying the career high he set with the Braves two years ago.

Drew also doubled off the wall in left-center field in the fourth. In the fifth, after Garciaparra and Jeff Kent made outs on the first pitch, Drew drew a four-pitch walk.

And in the ninth, Drew led off with a bloop single to right-center, giving him three of the Dodgers' seven hits and raising his batting average to .283.

Alas, the Dodgers lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-3, and dropped 1 1/2 games behind San Diego in the National League West and half a game behind Philadelphia in the wild-card standings. Drew left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

Long derided for a perceived lack of passion and clutch hitting, Drew has provided extra helpings of both recently. He clubbed one of the team's record-tying four consecutive homers in the ninth inning Monday against San Diego and participated in the celebratory scrum that followed Garciaparra's walk-off homer in the 10th.

Drew has hit four homers in the Dodgers' last 10 games and leads the team in homers (19), RBIs and walks (85). Of his last seven homers, four have given the Dodgers the lead.

"He's picked a good time to get hot," Dodgers Manager Grady Little said before the game. "We need him to swing the bat right now, and he's doing a good job."

Arizona rookie shortstop Stephen Drew had lunch with his older brother the other day, but the pair didn't discuss J.D.'s hot streak.

"I haven't really talked to him about it," Stephen Drew said. "You kind of see the stats of past weeks, and he's starting to catch up, which is good."

Stephen Drew said his brother's strong faith had helped insulate him from constant criticism that he was too fragile and didn't belong in the heart of a major league batting order or deserve his $11-million-a-year salary.

"With his Christian faith, it makes it a lot easier," Stephen said. "It makes it easier on me too. God's in control of everything, but we still have to go out and perform."

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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