Red Sox make lineup adjustments for Game 4 of ALDS

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 14: Xander Bogaerts
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 14: Xander Bogaerts /

The Boston Red Sox have made some minor lineup adjustments ahead of Game 4 of the ALDS. Will these moves help or are they merely shuffling the deck?

The Boston Red Sox are sticking primarily to the lineup that lit up the scoreboard for 10 runs the previous game but have made some noticeable changes for Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

The biggest adjustment comes at the top of the order, with Xander Bogaerts being swapped out of the leadoff spot to bat second behind Dustin Pedroia. Bogaerts is 0-for-14 in this series with four strikeouts, so the move is presumably being made to shake him out of his slump.

Will it work? There’s little evidence to suggest it will. Bogaerts began to thrive at the plate after being moved to the leadoff spot, hitting .309 with a .824 OPS from the top of the order. I’ll take the results of a three-game sample with a grain of salt against the 110 at-bats we saw from Bogaerts in that role down the stretch.

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If manager John Farrell feels Bogaerts is in a funk or pressing too much under the pressure of the postseason then this warrants a slide further down the lineup. The No. 2 hole is arguably the most important spot in the lineup so sticking an ice-cold bat there is essentially throwing mud at the wall and hoping it will stick.

Bogaerts rarely hit second this season, going 0-for-3 with a walk in his limited time in that spot. Over the previous three seasons, he’s a .248 hitter batting in the two spot.

The switch could have as much to do with Pedroia as it does with Bogaerts. The veteran second baseman is a mere 2-for-11 with two walks in this series. The Red Sox need to get his bat going as well but moving him out of the comfort of the No. 2 hole that he’s occupied for the majority of his career doesn’t seem to be the way to do it. The transition to the leadoff spot did manage to spark Pedroia last year but he didn’t fare nearly as well in that spot this season. He hit .260 in 77 at-bats as a leadoff hitter this year.

One solution would have been to consider bumping either Bogaerts or Pedroia further down in the order to slide others up a spot. That would have allowed for Hanley Ramirez to hit higher than sixth – an appealing scenario given that he’s been one of Boston’s hottest hitters in this series. Ramirez is 6-for-10 with two doubles and three RBI in this series.

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Perhaps the reason why Ramirez wasn’t moved up is his track record against Astros starter Charlie Morton. He has more plate appearances against Morton than any Red Sox hitter and the results are far from promising. Ramirez is 1-for-15 in his career against the hard-throwing right-hander.

The only other Red Sox hitter with more than six at-bats against Morton is Chris Young, who owns a .250 average and .808 OPS against him. He’s also the only Red Sox hitter to hit a home run against Morton, yet Young will begin the game on the bench.

The other change to the Game 4 lineup is at the catcher position, where Christian Vazquez takes over for Sandy Leon. Many questioned the decision to start Leon in a must-win Game 3 ahead of the hot-hitting Vazquez but it ultimately paid off. Leon collected a pair of hits and drove in a run, showing flashes of the potential that made him the Cinderella story of last season.

While it worked out in Game 3, going back to Vazquez for Game 4 is still the smart move. He hit .348 at Fenway Park this season and was a .314 hitter with a .812 OPS overall in the second half. His exposure to Morton is limited but Vazquez is 1-for-2 with a double against him.

Next: Keys to Red Sox Game 3 win

The Red Sox have their backs against the walls facing elimination for the second consecutive game. If these lineup tweaks pay off then they may live to fight another day. If not then it will give fans one more reason to look at Farrell with a critical eye.