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How Sox could adjust lineup for Game 3

Boston looking for offensive spark as ALDS shifts to Bronx
October 6, 2018

NEW YORK -- Alex Cora understands better than most what elite offenses can do. As Houston's bench coach last season, Cora oversaw a club that led the Majors in runs, batting average and OPS, among other offensive categories. He watched that same team score just one run in World Series

NEW YORK -- Alex Cora understands better than most what elite offenses can do. As Houston's bench coach last season, Cora oversaw a club that led the Majors in runs, batting average and OPS, among other offensive categories. He watched that same team score just one run in World Series Game 1, then break out for seven in Game 2 with an identical lineup. Cora watched the Astros again score one run in a Game 6 loss, then rebound for five in Game 7 with the exact same personnel.
Now managing a Red Sox team that led the Majors in runs, batting average and OPS in the regular season, Cora is wary of tinkering too much with his lineup following a 6-2 loss to the Yankees in American League Division Series Game 2 on Saturday night.
ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 3: Tonight, 7:40 p.m. ET on TBS
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
"That's something I learned -- be patient," Cora said. "It's such a small series that people get caught up on the whole small-sample sizes. I always said that the difference between a .300 hitter in the postseason and a .200 hitter is 2-for-10 and 3-for-10. It's one swing."
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That does not, however, mean Cora will stand by idly as the best-of-five series shifts to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 tonight with the two teams tied, 1-1. Given Boston's unique blend of personnel, it is able to mix things up at various positions around the diamond. Most notably, the Red Sox may consider changes at the following positions:
First base
This depends mostly on Mitch Moreland's health. Moreland, who departed Game 2 after seven innings with a sore right hamstring, received "aggressive treatment" Sunday on his leg. Although Moreland is not at risk of being subbed off the roster, according to Cora, he could sit out Game 3. If that happens, the Red Sox have two options to replace him.
Steve Pearce, Moreland's platoon mate at first base, is 2-for-7 with one home run in his career off Yankees Game 3 starter Luis Severino. While the right-handed Pearce is more effective against left-handed pitching, and offers Boston a valuable power bat off the bench, he is still a candidate to start.
Another possibility is Brock Holt, who has yet to appear in the ALDS despite batting .415 with four home runs, three doubles and a 1.259 OPS over his last 14 regular-season games. Just 1-for-15 lifetime against Severino, Holt posted a .788 OPS this season against right-handed pitching.

Second base
Ian Kinsler provided one of Boston's two Game 2 runs with a seventh-inning RBI double, but he also has five strikeouts and hit into a double play in eight ALDS at-bats. In his past 11 games including the regular season, Kinsler is hitting .136. Since returning from a left hamstring injury Aug. 17, he is slashing .230/.280/.295 with one home run.
"I'm just trying to help the team," Kinsler said. "You're trying to do what it takes to get on base, to help the team whatever it takes. I'm trying to get to a point where I can help every at-bat. That's the key. We'll turn the page and get ready for Monday."
If Holt is needed elsewhere on the diamond, the Red Sox could give Kinsler another crack in Game 3. Or they could replace him with Holt, looking for a spark from the latter half of their lineup. So far in the ALDS, the bottom-four grouping of Eduardo Nunez, Kinsler, Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. is 3-for-26.
Third base
Before Game 2, Cora used defense as justification for playing Nunez over Rafael Devers, whose 21 homers ranked fourth on the Red Sox. But Nunez committed a fielding error later that night, is 0-for-7 with a walk in the series and has not homered in more than a month.
Alternative options are Holt and Devers, and the latter is 5-for-18 lifetime off Severino.

Catcher
Following Boston's Game 1 victory, several Red Sox went out of their way to praise Leon, a strong game-caller who successfully blocked ball after ball in the dirt. Yet, Christian Vazquez is an excellent defender as well. While neither catcher enjoyed a strong offensive regular season, Vazquez has had a bit more success (2-for-8) than Leon (2-for-16) against Severino.
Cora's decision to start Nathan Eovaldi over Rick Porcello in Game 3 makes a change at catcher even more likely. Unlike Porcello, who threw almost exclusively to Leon this season, Eovaldi paired with Vasquez in each of his last three regular-season starts -- two of those against the Yankees.
"We'll talk about it tonight," Cora said Sunday. "We'll see. We've got to score runs, too, and that's something that we've been talking about for a while. It's not on Sandy only. Everybody has to get going. We'll talk about it and make a decision."

Anthony DiComo has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook