Red Sox should have pinch-hit for Hunter Renfroe with game on the line

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 02: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out against the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day at Fenway Park on April 02, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 3-0. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 02: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out against the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day at Fenway Park on April 02, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 3-0. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Red Sox manager Alex Cora
FT. MYERS, FL – FEBRUARY 21: Manager Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox addresses the media during a press conference during a spring training team workout on February 21, 2021 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox missed a clear spot to pinch-hit late in the game

One aspect that the Boston Red Sox have vastly improved upon this season is their enviable depth. The front office loaded up on versatile players to give Alex Cora plenty of options but with the game on the line, the manager didn’t take advantage of that flexibility.

Boston trailed by one run entering the final frame of the 7-inning game in the first half of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. Liam Hendriks, the league’s best reliever last season, was on the mound to present the Red Sox with a difficult hurdle in their efforts to rally.

Hendriks retired Rafael Devers with a harmless infield popup on his first pitch, bringing Hunter Renfroe to the plate with one out.

Renfroe got the start with lefty Dallas Keuchel on the mound for Chicago and he reached on an infield single that drove in Boston’s first run in the fourth inning. While he was picked off on a costly base running blunder to stall the rally, Renfroe was having a solid afternoon.

The reason to question the choice to leave him in for that final plate appearance was all about the matchup with the right-handed Hendriks. Renfroe has wide career splits for his career, batting .256/.337/.572 against southpaws but only .215/.268/.444 with a right-handed pitcher on the mound.

The platoon splits were also greatly in favor of the White Sox closer. Right-handed hitters were 1-for-9 (.111) this season against Hendriks entering the day. He also held right-handed bats to a .135 average and .302 OPS last year.

Renfore is off to a rough start to his first season in Boston, entering the day hitting .179 with a .571 OPS through eight games. Between his current slump and long history of platoon splits, there was little reason to have faith in Renfroe in that spot.