The return of second baseman Dustin Pedroia has sparked some lineup changes for the Boston Red Sox entering their series in Tampa Bay.
When the Boston Red Sox begin a pivotal series against the division rival Rays down in Tampa Bay on Tuesday they will do so with a new look lineup.
The return of Dustin Pedroia is the most notable change. The veteran second baseman was activated from the disabled list this afternoon and inserted back into his regular spot in the No. 2 hole. Pedroia will serve as the designated hitter in his first game back as the Red Sox look to ease his workload following time off due to soreness in his surgically repaired knee.
We also find that the scorching bat of Eduardo Nunez has been moved up to the top of the order. The versatile infielder is no stranger to the lead-off role. He has hit in the top spot in 97 games throughout his career, posting a .280 average and .736 OPS – numbers almost identical to his overall career numbers. He has only hit first in three games this season.
Putting Nunez at the top of the order also means the potential for the team’s hottest hitter to receive more at-bats. Nunez is hitting .400 with four home runs and 12 RBI through nine games in a Red Sox uniform.
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The move pushes Mookie Betts to the cleanup spot for the first time this season. Manager John Farrell moved Betts down to fourth in the lineup around this same time last year to take advantage of his blossoming power. He responded by hitting .338 with a .903 OPS and five home runs in 36 games. While his power numbers are down a bit this year, the hope is that moving to the cleanup role will help give Betts a similar spark down the stretch this year.
The rest of the lineup fills out similar to what we’ve seen from the Red Sox of late, with the exception of the absence of Hanley Ramirez. The 33-year old will miss his third straight game with oblique soreness.
As much attention as the lineup is getting, we can’t overlook that Boston will send Chris Sale to the mound tonight. The lefty hasn’t lost since these Rays handed him his fourth loss of the season the last time the Red Sox visited Tampa Bay about a month ago. Sale is also coming off his worst start of the season in which he was shelled for seven runs against the Cleveland Indians a week ago.
In fairness, the Red Sox still won that game against Cleveland in dramatic walk-off fashion. They were less fortune in Sale’s last start in Tampa Bay, although his offense only provided a single run to support him in that game. Boston’s lineup is thriving during their six-game win streak, so things may turn out a bit differently this time around.
We’ll see if this revised batting order helps fuel the offense to another strong effort in support of their ace to help the Red Sox increase their 5.5 game division lead over the Rays.