BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox sure could use Travis Shaw’s bat right now.
Normally, a regular season series between the Sox and Brewers in Milwaukee may not have that much intrigue. But Shaw’s first three games against his former team certainly counts for something, especially considering the black hole that third base has been in Boston.
Shaw is batting .263 for the Brewers so far in 2017, but has slugged seven home runs to go with a team-leading 24 RBIs. He’s 1-for-his-last-11 in the past three games, but the one hit was a solo home run against the Pirates on Sunday.
Red Sox third basemen, meanwhile, have combined for just three homers and 14 RBIs with a .226 average and .601 OPS. They’ve also combined for 12 errors in 75 chances on defense, compared to four errors in 76 chances for Shaw. Between Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez, Josh Rutledge, Steve Selsky, and Deven Marrero, the hot corner has been ice cold so far for Boston.
Red Sox president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski traded Shaw, along with prospects Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington, to the Brewers for reliever Tyler Thornburg on the second day of the Winter Meetings in December. Thornburg is now on the 60-day disabled list with no sign of returning to Boston this season.
Thornburg is under team control for the next three seasons, so there’s still time for him to contribute if he can stay healthy. But the Red Sox are in “win now” mode and Shaw is a piece that they certainly could have used this season. If Shaw manages to spark the Brewers offense in this series, expect even more scrutiny to surface over the trade.
Here’s what else to watch for as the Red Sox take on the Brewers in Milwaukee:
Keep the offensive surge going
The Red Sox offense exploded after John Farrell shuffled the lineup around over the weekend, scoring 28 runs in the final two games of their series against the Minnesota Twins. It remains to be seen whether they can keep that hot streak going. But they have a decent chance against the Brewers’ projected starters for the series, who have a combined 4.15 ERA.
Wednesday’s projected starter, Chase Anderson, appears to be the only real threat with his 2-0 record and 2.86 ERA.
Slow down Eric Thames
Shaw may be the Brewers’ RBI leader. Ryan Braun may have the best offensive pedigree. But it’s Eric Thames who has been the most dangerous hitter in the lineup in 2017 with a stunning 12 home runs so far. The 30-year-old Thames spent a year in the minors and three years in Korea before returning to the major leagues this season, and has been arguably the biggest surprise in baseball.
Thames has cooled off a bit to start May after a huge April, but hit his 12th home run on Sunday against the Pirates. Keeping him off the bases will be key to keeping the Brewers off the scoreboard.
Limit Brewers offense early on
If the Red Sox’ starting pitching can slow the Brewers down for the early-to-mid innings, they’ll be in great shape. The Brewers have especially jumped on starting pitchers in the first inning, scoring 28 runs with 22 extra-base hits and a .989 team OPS. Avoiding a rough start would work wonders for the Red Sox staff.
Compare the Brewers’ 67 runs and .887 team OPS in innings 1-3 to a putrid 24 runs and .576 OPS in innings 7-9. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have scored 54 runs in innings 7-9 with a .775 OPS. So the Red Sox will have their best chances to win if the games end up coming down to the bullpens.
Tuesday: Drew Pomeranz (3-1, 4.00) vs. Wily Peralta (4-2, 4.88)
Wednesday: Kyle Kendrick (0-1, 13.50) vs. Chase Anderson (2-0, 2.86)
Thursday: Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 3.07) vs. Jimmy Nelson (1-2, 4.83)