The Boston Red Sox are giving most of their regular starters a night off in the series finale at Yankee Stadium after clinching the AL East division title.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell has tinkered with his lineup at times this season, but we’ve never seen anything like this.
With the AL East division title locked up, the Red Sox are taking advantage of the opportunity to rest many of their key starters to begin tonight’s game at Yankee Stadium, which wraps up the final road trip of the regular season. Let’s just say that tonight’s lineup will look a bit different than what we’re used to.
It starts with third baseman Aaron Hill in the lead-off spot, where he has a mere 14 at-bats over the past three seasons. He is 3-for-9 (.333) from the top of the order this season and his best work has come when hitting near the top of the lineup, although many of those limited at-bats have come as a pinch-hitter. The Red Sox will face lefty C.C. Sabathia tonight, so Hill’s success against left-handed pitching surely was a factor in the decision to put him at the top of this revamped lineup.
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He’ll be followed by Andrew Benintendi, who until now has been used almost exclusively near the bottom of the order in his rookie season. Is his promotion toward the top of the lineup a sign that Farrell has recognized the outstanding start to the 22-year old’s career?
Lefty-masher Chris Young is in right field tonight, giving Mookie Betts a breather. The MVP candidate joins fellow starters Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon on the bench to begin the night.
There are a few other starters in their familiar spots tonight. Xander Bogaerts, who is showing signs of pulling out of his slump since being rested a week ago, is batting third and playing shortstop. Jackie Bradley will patrol center field and bat sixth.
Then there is David Ortiz. One would think that the 40-year old in the lineup would be the first choice to get a day off after clinching the division, but did you really think Ortiz was going to sit out his final game in Yankee Stadium? Had Farrell dared to try it he would have heard more F-bombs from Papi than we heard on NESN during the clubhouse champagne celebration last night.
Here’s what the lineup looks like tonight:
The Red Sox have also made a change on the mound, giving Henry Owens his first start in the big leagues since August 21. He owns a 7.79 ERA through four starts with the Red Sox this season. However, his one decent start this year did come against the Yankees, when he tossed six innings and gave up two runs.
With Owens getting a start and about half of the team’s regulars sitting out, clearly the Red Sox aren’t going all out to shoot for the American League’s top record. That’s fine though, as ensuring the team’s starters are fresh and healthy to begin the postseason is what’s most important. These guys deserve a break to relish in the accomplishment of winning the division, so we can expect the rest of the starters to get a break during the final home stand this weekend.