Craig gets start in right, hits first HR of '15
Red Sox backup outfielder capitalizes on opportunity, takes Yanks' Sabathia deep
BOSTON -- Just a few days after Red Sox manager John Farrell expressed hesitation about playing seldom-used Allen Craig in the expansive right field of Fenway Park, the former Cardinal got his first home start of the season there in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Yankees.
The move, fueled by a favorable pitching matchup, paid off when the right-handed Craig took Yankees southpaw starter CC Sabathia deep in the fourth inning for his first home run of 2015. Craig's blast, a drive over the Green Monster, ended a streak of 106 homerless at-bats and marked just his fifth hit of the season.
"I felt like I've been putting some good swings on the ball and taking good passes at it," Craig said. "Felt good to connect with one, for sure."
The first baseman/outfielder had not faced the Yankees veteran before Friday, but his career .281 average versus lefties seemed to suggest he had an advantage. He finished 1-for-3 as utility man Brock Holt replaced him in the eighth.
"Looking at the matchup with the right-handers and the way they swung the bat against CC, we're trying to get another right-hander in the lineup," Farrell said before the game. "If we have to [make a defensive substitution] late, certainly that's available to us."
Daniel Nava, hitting exclusively from the left side this year, and Holt had split time in right field during the first three games of the homestand. Nava was 2-for-12 with six strikeouts when facing Sabathia, while Holt was 0-for-2.
The Red Sox saw Friday's matchup as an important chance to keep Craig involved.
"It's the production by right-handed hitters," Farrell said. "If we don't use Allen today… this is a day we've got to get him on the field."
Since the Red Sox acquired him in the John Lackey trade last year, Craig has seen his status as an everyday player diminish into a part-time bench role, and he admitted the transition has made daily preparation more difficult. But perhaps Friday's performance can serve as a catalyst for Craig to improve his early offensive numbers, which no doubt have been affected by a meager .154 batting average on balls in play.
"I think everybody likes to have some success," Craig said. "I've been feeling good at the plate. I've been hitting balls hard. It's just a matter for things to start breaking my way."