BOSTON (CBS) — Needing a spark to his offense, Tigers manager Jim Leyland shook up his lineup prior to Wednesday’s Game 4. On Thursday, Red Sox manager John Farrell will need to do the same.
Xander Bogaerts may not have been deemed ready for the bright lights of the postseason two weeks ago when the Red Sox kicked things off against Tampa Bay, but now eight games into the playoffs, the kid has aced just about every test presented to him. Now, the Red Sox will need him to start Game 5 of the ALCS.
Bogaerts entered Wednesday’s Game 4 as a defensive replacement for pinch hitter Mike Carp, and he didn’t get his first plate appearance until the ninth inning. Facing Joaquin Benoit, whom Bogaerts was hoping to see again after just missing a pitch in the ninth inning of Game 1, Bogaerts sent a deep fly ball to the opposite field, and it bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.
The hit was just Bogaerts’ first of the postseason, but he’s reached base in three of his four plate appearances. He walked twice in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Rays, scoring the tying run in the seventh and crossing the plate for an insurance run in the ninth in the series-clinching 3-1 victory.
Farrell wouldn’t say for sure that Bogaerts would be in the lineup for Game 5, but it sure seemed like he was leaning that way.
“I haven’t made a decision on tomorrow’s lineup, but given the way the left side of the infield … we’re struggling to get some production out of that side. So something’s being considered for sure,” Farrell said.
The manager was referring to Stephen Drew, who went 0-for-4 in Game 4 and is hitting just .107 in the playoffs, and Will Middlebrooks, who went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts to bring his postseason average down to .174.
Drew has served as the proverbial punching bag for fans whenever the Red Sox have struggled to score runs this season, but he’s hardly the only one who’s gone cold. David Ortiz went 0-for-5 on Wednesday and is hitting just .214 in the postseason, despite that memorable grand slam. Dustin Pedroia went 1-for-4 in Game 4, and he’s hitting just .226 this postseason. Shane Victorino was 1-for-5, and he’s hitting just .125 in the ALCS.
So while Drew may be struggling, he’s not alone. Regardless, the Red Sox at this point need a boost to their offense. They did have 12 hits in Game 4, but four of them came from Jacoby Ellsbury, and two came from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who won’t be in the lineup for Game 5. That leaves just six hits from the rest of the lineup, and one of them came from Bogaerts in his only chance.
The 21-year-old Bogaerts is far from a sure thing, but given how futile the Boston bats have been against Detroit starters, the Red Sox have nothing to lose by starting him at shortstop or third base for Game 5. He’s proven, albeit in very brief opportunities, that he can handle the pressure of playoff baseball. He’s earned his chance, and more importantly, the Red Sox need him.