Bogaerts may spell Drew or Middlebrooks as Red Sox seek offensive spark
DETROIT -- The moment of inspiration came for Jim Leyland late on Tuesday while kicking back on a couch in front of the television, whipping out a pad and pencil to scribble a new look for his lineup. The Tigers manager has been rewarded with a victory and a tied American League Championship Series.
Is it time for John Farrell to follow Leyland's lead and shake up the Red Sox's batting order? That drum beat grew louder in the moments after Boston's 7-3 loss in Game 4, and Farrell acknowledged that he is open to change.
Xander Bogaerts could be in the Red Sox's lineup when they face Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez on Thursday (8 p.m., FOX) at Comerica Park, replacing either shortstop Stephen Drew or third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
"I haven't made a decision on tomorrow's lineup," Farrell said, "but given the way the left side of the infield -- we're struggling a little bit to get production out of that side. So it's something that's being considered, for sure."
With his ninth-inning double Wednesday off Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, Bogaerts, who recently turned 21, became the youngest player in Red Sox history to record a postseason hit -- Reggie Smith, Everett Scott and Smoky Joe Wood were all 22 when they logged postseason hits for Boston.
That historical footnote is a nice keepsake for Bogaerts, who also walked twice in the AL Division Series and has been used for pinch-hitting, pinch-running and late-inning defense during the postseason. But what he would really love is a few more cracks on this playoff stage.
"That's what you want," Bogaerts said. "You want to play as many games as possible to help the team win. I'll leave the decision up to them. If I'm in, I'm in, and if I'm not I'll just be ready to go."
Despite the lopsided final score, there were encouraging signs from the Red Sox lineup in Game 4, as they produced three runs and 12 hits, four of which came off the bat of leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury.
"We weren't putting the ball in play [earlier in the ALCS], but that wasn't our issue tonight," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "Tonight we put the ball in play, we just left too many pitches over the plate and made some mistakes on the field."
Saltalamacchia and Mike Napoli contributed a pair of hits each, but there are still a few too many misfiring parts of the lineup for Farrell's taste.
Drew is 1-for-13 (.077) in the ALCS, Middlebrooks is 1-for-10 (.100) and Shane Victorino is 2-for-16 (.125). David Ortiz may have delivered the biggest hit of the series with his Game 2 grand slam, but it is also Big Papi's only hit in 15 at-bats (.067).
"We had 12 hits tonight, and you leave 10 men on base," Farrell said. "The one thing when we've been in stretches like this, we continually do a very good job of creating opportunities. We did that tonight. We haven't done it so much in the first three games.
"But that's a tip of the hat to the pitching that we've been facing. The one thing that we've maintained is a constant approach with the lineup and not creating further uncertainty. And I think our guys have responded well to that."
But again, if Leyland could jettison Austin Jackson from the leadoff spot and revamp a Tigers lineup that produced 796 runs this season, second in the Major Leagues only to Boston's 853, what's to say Farrell couldn't join him in pushing different buttons?
"It was a lot of fun," said the Tigers' Torii Hunter, who was bumped up to the leadoff spot. "I think it settled us down and allowed us to do what we had to do."
It has not escaped Farrell's attention that the Red Sox are 4-0 this postseason when Jonny Gomes starts in left field, and just 1-3 with Daniel Nava starting.
Farrell cited Gomes' intangibles in selecting him for the Game 3 lineup, ignoring his unimpressive career numbers against Justin Verlander, so it would not be a shock to see Gomes in there for Game 5.
There may have also been a hint of things to come in the sixth inning, when Farrell pinch-hit for Middlebrooks with Mike Carp and then allowed Bogaerts to handle third base for the rest of the game.
Bogaerts made the final out of Game 1 at Fenway Park, popping up against Benoit, and said that he hoped to get another crack against the Tigers closer.
That came about in the ninth inning, when Bogaerts spiced up Thursday's talk-radio chatter by taking a 94-mph fastball the other way to right field for a ground-rule double, then scoring on Ellsbury's triple.
Bogaerts said that he had felt "very confident, very relaxed" coming into the at-bat, and noted that while on the bench, he had been visualizing himself slugging an opposite-field homer. He came up just a few feet short, but it was enough to get everyone picturing a Red Sox lineup with his name installed.
"It's all about opportunities," Bogaerts said. "You never know what can happen if you get an opportunity. It's crazy how this game is. We'll see tomorrow."