Red Sox

Drellich: Using hot hand is safest route for John Farrell, and that's his plan


Drellich: Using hot hand is safest route for John Farrell, and that's his plan

BOSTON — With 19 games remaining in regular season, career track records start to mean less for Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Chris Young was in the Sox lineup batting second in left field on Tuesday. He came into the opener of a three-game set with the A’s with four hits in four plate appearances vs. A’s lefty Sean Manaea. But Young, who’s batting .187 vs. southpaws this season, may not be starting against lefties much longer — even though that’s been his forte in his career.

How does Farrell know when to weigh recency more than career past?

“I think we’re getting to that point,” Farrell said. “And you continue to provide opportunity, mentioned the other day when we start talking about the bullpen, you start talking about, you get into the latter part of this month, you begin to start paying closer attention to what is the hotter hand. And let’s face it, we know players go through some ebbs and flows along the way. Much as teams do, and as much as you want to acknowledge how those players have gotten you to that point in their tenure here, I think there comes a point here where it’s you know what, we got to pay closer attention to what is currently taking place for win today at basically all costs.”

This is something of an informed guessing game.

There’s a strong argument to make that basing lineup choices on the hot (or cold) hand is not always the direction to go. But if there is something the coaching staff, Farrell or even the player himself notices about particular performances — something that makes any of that group believe the player can’t live up to their career norms — such a move makes a lot more sense.

Then there’s this aspect: playing the hot hand, very simply, is harder for fans and media to second guess. If Farrell chose to play someone cold over someone with recent success in whatever the scenario may be, he’d get torn apart. But it was expected going into the final month he’d be facing these kinds of choices.

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’s thought about playing Rajai Davis more frequently against lefties.

“In the short answer, yes,” Farrell said. “But in the obvious situation we’re in, this isn’t the time for us to experiment either. Again there’s the ability to use those who have performed.  So in other words, if it’s Rajai Davis vs. Benny [Andrew Benintendi] in left field, or if it’s in another combination, there are guys that are ahead of him right now and that’s where we’re going about this. 

“Now I will say this: the ability to get or pick a spot where Rajai can make sure he comes in off the bench and the ability to steal a base… we’ll continue to look to try to get those opportunities."

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS - Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler homered to back an effective start by Lance Lynn as the Minnesota Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run and Kepler added a two-run shot off Boston starter David Price (8-5). Brian Dozier added a pair of doubles to help Minnesota win for the fourth time in five games.

Lynn (5-5) again struggled with command, issuing five walks, but he surrendered just one unearned run and three hits in five innings.

Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings with Fernando Rodney securing his 16th save in 19 chances.

Price allowed the three runs on seven hits and a walk. He had given up just one home run in his previous five starts and seven total in 14 starts this season coming into Wednesday.

The Red Sox were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 22 in the first two games of the series. They've stranded 18 baserunners in the two games and lost for the fourth time in five games.

Lynn has had an uncharacteristic wild season in his first year with the Twins. He walked at least five batters for the fifth time in 14 starts. But the veteran right-hander has limited the damage and allowed less than three runs in five of his last six starts.

Boston's lone run scored in the second as Lynn couldn't catch first baseman Logan Morrison's high throw to first for the final out of the inning, allowing Mitch Moreland to score from second base.

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has a newfound sense of urgency. A feeling that every move counts and will count, be it at the trade deadline in a month and a half, or when Alex Cora determines his second baseman on a nightly basis.

It's not because these franchises hate each other, because of their steep history. It's because they actually have to best the other, or suffer an unwelcome consequence.

Unlike the early 2000s, both teams cannot enter the playoffs on equal footing. A second-place finish in the American League East will sting. Participating in the Wild Card game for the right to move on to the five-game Division Series will be a stomach-turning experience for one of these two teams.

The upshot presently: even as the Sox and Yanks play teams that are uninspiring, and there are plenty such clubs, there is reason for fans and players alike to stay intently focused. (In the midst of a 162-game season, there will be lapses for everyone.) There is reason to care, in fact, if the ideal lineup or pinch-hit decision is made by Alex Cora, at every juncture. There is reason to care about whether Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has sufficiently helped rebuild the farm system, because it’s a matter of depth options now and via trade.

The Sox can have the best record in the majors in June, or be one win off the pace-setters, and the smallest of details will still matter. “They’re great,” doesn’t cut it. “Is this move optimal to beat the Yankees, the team that can relegate the Sox to a one-game playoff scenario?” is the question to be answered

As trade season arrives, the concept of the marginal win is out the window for both clubs. Or it should be. In divisions where one team is clearly superior, the need to add by trade isn’t always so clear. What’s the difference between 93 wins and 95 wins if you’re heading to the Division Series either way? Is the slight upgrade worth whatever you’re giving up?

The playoffs are always a crapshoot. But the Sox and Yanks are playing to avoid the biggest crapshoot of all in the Wild Card.

Passion between fan bases in the regular season wasn’t lacking 15 years ago. It was greater, obviously. But for different reasons. Second place in the division was usually a matter of bragging rights, rather than actual reward or worthiness. 

We’ve returned to a world where the Sox and Yanks are clearly better than virtually everyone. Were the rest of the AL stronger this year, the Wild Card could be a blessing for the Sox or the Yanks — a chance to make a postseason run that did not previously exist when there were four playoff teams instead of five. 

But the present landscape shows three powerhouses, and two of them happen to be classic rivals in the East. What they do before October means more now than it used to.