Struggling McDonald gets important homer

July, 3, 2011
7/03/11
12:09
AM ET
HOUSTON -- The ball jumped off Darnell McDonald’s bat and soared deep to left. The ball was absolutely crushed.

It cleared the outfield wall easily, and landed on the railroad tracks atop the wall beyond the seats at Minute Maid Park.

The homer was a three-run shot in the eighth inning, putting the Red Sox ahead 9-3 in the eighth and cementing the win against the woeful Astros. But it was much more than that for McDonald. It was a breath of fresh air, a little life pumped back into his major league mortality.

[+] EnlargeDarnell McDonald
AP Photo/David J. PhillipDarnell McDonald hit his second homer of the season Saturday.
That’s what a home run can do for you when you’re batting .109 when you step to the plate, with critics calling for the team to find someone else who can hit better.

“It felt real good,” said McDonald quietly, with a smile, in the Sox’ clubhouse after the game.

“The home run is something positive I can take with me and build on. Hopefully this will get me going,” said McDonald, who had flied out twice and bounced into a double play in his first three at-bats.

Something has to get McDonald going or he’ll be the one going somewhere else. He was batting .115 when the game started and ended it batting .125.

Manager Terry Francona has tried to be patient with McDonald, hoping he can produce the numbers (.270, 9 homers, 34 RBI) he put up last year in a fourth-outfielder role. That’s why Francona had McDonald in the lineup Saturday night against left-hander J.A. Happ, hoping he could get hot. McDonald is the right-handed outfield option now that Mike Cameron has been designated for assignment.

“That’s the McDonald we saw last year. He got a ball he could reach and he drove the heck out of it,” said Francona of McDonald’s bomb off left-hander Fernando Abad.

McDonald, meanwhile, has tried to not let his struggles get to him. He has worked hard with batting coach Dave Magadan.

“I think things are going to turn around for me,” said McDonald. “I appreciate Tito having confidence in me. I just have to keep working hard and hope the results come. It’s a long season. The frustrating part is not being able to come through for my team. I’m all about winning games.

“This game is tough regardless of whether you’re playing every day or not. When you’re not playing it’s tougher. You press trying to get everything in one at-bat,” he said.

“I’m just trying to get my timing. I’m doing some different things with Mags. I’m a fastball hitter. I feel like I have been in-between on the fastball and the breaking pitch. I have to stay back on the fastball and do what I do best,” said McDonald.

He did it well once Saturday night. Now it will be a question of whether he can use that one productive at-bat as a springboard to a resurgence.

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