Lowell shows his determination to win

Lowell shows his determination to win

BOSTON -- Looking back on the Red Sox's 9-2 win over the Orioles at Fenway Park years from now, there will be nothing of significance to see in the box score. But as Mike Lowell proved with his grit and determination on Friday night, box scores often serve as an injustice to what goes on during a game.

Stepping up to the plate in the first inning, Lowell was just as quickly knocked down. Southpaw Adam Loewen drilled the third baseman with a fastball to the back of his helmet that sent Lowell to the dirt and the ball back near the mound.

"I was trying to go up in the zone, trying to make him chase. It just got away from me," Loewen said. "That was pretty scary. I was praying for him, because I saw it hit him. He bounced back with a great game today. It shows the kind of competitor he is."

Lowell lay on the ground, with eyes awake and senses full, breathing normally, while no one in their seats could do the same after taking one collective gasp. He talked to trainers and Red Sox manager Terry Francona, staring up at the sky while 36,191 fans stared down at him.

"It's never really happened to me. I've been hit in the helmet before but not so solid. I just kind of stood there for a second, making sure I had my bearings," Lowell said. "I felt good. I just didn't know how to react. ... If you get up quick, are you going to pass out?"

"I checked with him every other inning and we finally took him out in the ninth, but he said he was OK," Francona said. "We certainly want to be protective, but if a guy says he's OK, we don't want to just take a good player out of the game."

When you get hit in the head with a fastball, it's normally not your day, but in this atypical Red Sox season, the boundaries of Fenway Park are redefining what is unusual.

"He gets smoked in the head, stays in the game. You can tell by the way the fans reacted, their appreciation for him wanting to stay in the game," Francona said. "He's the kind of player that is easy to be proud of. His effort, his willingness to want to do the right thing. [It's] nice to see him have a night like that."

The third inning opened off with Lowell's showcase of fearlessness. Nick Markakis hit a pop fly in foul territory on the third-base side and Lowell patiently waited for it to drop, catching it as his momentum took over the wall and into the stands, lying on his back again.

"I figured since my head hurt, maybe I could ruin my legs," Lowell joked. "I thought I had about one more step on that play. I'm just grateful there's padding over there, because I hit it a little quicker than I thought I would have."

He held the glove high to show he had the ball and got up again, returning to his position with a look that revealed no hint of any unforeseen occurrences on the night.

There were no pair of hands in the stadium that could be refrained from banging together, demonstrating the respect and admiration worthy of his contributions. In the middle of a playoff race, Lowell showed the Fenway faithful that winning is as important to him as it is to them.

"He wants to win so bad, and he shows up every day with the same demeanor," Francona said. "He cares about his teammates and plays the game correctly."

Maybe he will epitomize the Red Sox from here on out. Maybe their five-game losing streak to the Devil Rays and Royals was their fastball to the head, and maybe they will display the perseverance and willingness to overcome anything to make it to October. Even if they fall short, there can be no accusations that Lowell was short on effort.

"I think this team is willing to sacrifice its body. He exemplified that tonight," second baseman Mark Loretta said. "A lot of guys probably would've come out of the game after getting hit in the head, and it was impressive he stayed in. Of course his catch was one of the best of the year. I think that provided some inspiration tonight for us."

In the bottom of the third, Lowell hit an RBI single off the Green Monster to score David Ortiz and then after advancing to second base, he strapped on his cape to fly over to third for a stolen base. He would then score on a Javy Lopez RBI single.

After the game, Lowell met with team doctors and said that everything appears to be fine.

"I feel like my head's lopsided. I never was dizzy though. I just feel like I have a big bump on the side of my head," Lowell said. "Hopefully, I won't have a headache going to sleep."

After snapping a five-game losing streak, the Fenway faithful certainly won't.

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.