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Two Big Lineup Decisions for the Red Sox this Postseason

The Red Sox have clinched their third straight AL East title with baseball’s best record, but they don’t exactly have a strong lineup across the board.

Matt Barnes by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Two Big Lineup Decisions for the Red Sox this Postseason

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The Boston Red Sox have clinched their third straight AL East title, and ensured a Divisional Series playoff matchup against the winner of the Wild Card game (likely either New York or Oakland). As the Red Sox wrap up the final few relatively meaningless games of the regular season this week, manager Alex Cora has some important lineup decisions to mull over before the playoffs begin on Oct. 5th. 

Even though the Red Sox will probably finish the regular season with baseball’s best record, they don’t exactly have a strong lineup across the board. They rely heavily on their stars- Betts, Martinez, Sale, Price, Kimbrel- to carry them, and to overcome the lack of production that plagues them elsewhere in the lineup (Boston has the worst WAR this season at the catcher’s spot, second base, and third base of any teams in the league). When it comes to these kinds of “questionable” areas,  Alex Cora has two big decisions to make in my opinion.

Third Base 

Sure, Rafael Devers has held down the fort at the hot corner for most of this season (as long as he’s been healthy). But I think it’s not a sure-fire notion that the position is his to man in October. His bat is looking better as of late, and he’s showing a bit of the power the Red Sox have been waiting for from him. But his glove continues to be a problem. His 23 errors this season are tied for the league lead, which could be problematic against right-handed heavy lineups like the one the Yankees possess. 

If Cora is okay absorbing the risk defensively, Devers’ bat provides much more upside than utility men such as Brock Holt or Eduardo Nunez (and the way Ian Kinsler’s bat has gone flat, Holt may be getting the nod at second to start the playoffs). Perhaps Boston goes with a matchup-based approach, rotating any of the aforementioned guys based on who they face on the mound.

But I’d like to see Cora give Devers the start at third- albeit with a short leash in close games. If it gets to the 7th or 8th inning, and the Sox are up by a couple runs, he shouldn’t hesitate to put in Nunez or Tzu-Wei Lin to sure things up defensively. But I think it’s important to have his bat in the lineup to start, especially for a Red Sox team whose bats have gone ice cold the last two postseasons. I think he has too much pop to leave on the bench.

Fourth Starter

The first three guys here seem pretty well set, them being Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. But Cora is going to have to decide who he wants starting a critical Game 4 if it comes to that point, and there’s two candidates for this job at the moment: Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi.

According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, Eovaldi is slated to start the series in the bullpen, but depending on his usage, would be available to start Game 4 if necessary. It also seems like E-Rod’s last rough start against the Yankees may have hurt his case for this role.

I like E-Rod a lot. I think his stuff is better than Eovaldi’s, and I think his overall ceiling is higher. But I think I like Eovaldi as the Game 4 starter if necessary. He has been pitching well of late (including a 10 K performance against Baltimore on Monday), and he provides a change of pace from an otherwise lefty-dominated starting rotation. Plus, E-Rod gives Boston a dynamic left-handed option out of the bullpen which they sorely lack, unless you are big fans of Drew Pomeranz and Bobby Poyner.

In any case, Alex Cora’s decisions are going to be under a microscope given how the Sox are among the favorites, if not the favorite, to win it all. He seems to have a good handle on the lineup to this point, let’s see if it will play out that way in October.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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