BOSTON – Red Sox manager John Farrell did not have an official announcement for his lineup for Game 6 of the ALCS Saturday at Fenway Park. But, he knows who will be manning certain positions.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be back behind the plate, catching for right-hander Clay Buchholz. Xander Bogaerts will be back at third base. Mike Napoli will be at first. And Stephen Drew will be at shortstop.
Farrell acknowledged he is aware of how impatient a certain faction of observers has become with Drew. But, Farrell is not shying away from him.
“There's been a lot calling for Stephen's head, seemingly, but he's a very good player,” Farrell said. “And in these games defense is a premium. And when a defensive play hasn't been made and you give a team an extra out, as good as these two teams are, you're likely going to pay for that. And I'm not saying that we don't have good defenders otherwise. But Stephen has taken good swings. We all recognize the struggles that are there. But he shores up the middle of our infield so well... I'm certainly going to preserve that. And yes, Stephen will be in the lineup [Saturday].”
* As streaky as Napoli can be, the Sox are happy to stay with him, especially if he is getting on one of his hot streaks.
In the past two games, Napoli is 5-for-8, with three runs scored, an RBI, and three extra-base hits. In Game 5 Thursday night, he led the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park, and a 3-2 lead in the series. Napoli went 3-for-4 and was a triple shy of the cycle, with two runs scored and one RBI. He led off the Sox three-run second inning, mashing an Anibal Sanchez 3-and-1 fastball to straightaway center field. Unofficial estimates had Napoli’s home run at 450-460 feet.
“I don't know that you're looking for any indicators,” Farrell said. “You're personally willing to put him in the lineup every day. And you ride through the peaks and the valleys.
“As we talked about the other day, when it was thought because of his struggles or the way things were going in this postseason do you look to sit him. And that was never contemplated, other than Game 2 where we thought there might be a better matchup with Mike Carp and the left hander.
“When he gets into that upswing he can carry us. And not just because of the home run he hit last night, you see the other things he's very capable of doing. And the base running, he might be our best instinctual baserunner on this team. And that's not to be confused with foot speed, but his reads and breaks are tremendous.”
* With Shane Victorino struggling in the ALCS – batting just .095, going 2-for-21 with nine strikeouts – Farrell was asked if he would consider dropping him down in the order from his normal two spot.
“There's been some thought to that,” Farrell said. “But to the point of making a change, haven't gotten to that point yet.”
* The Sox are 9-3 all-time in the sixth game of a postseason series, including 5-0 at home in Game 6. They are 5-0 all-time in the sixth game of an ALCS, with two of those games at Fenway in 1986 and 2007. This is the first time in their 10 ALCS’s that the Sox have held a 3-2 lead after five games. The Sox have taken three of the first five wins in a postseason series for the fourth time. They also did it in the World Series in 1912 (3-2-1 after six games), 1918, 1946, and 1986, winning the series in 1918 and 1946, but losing in 1946 and 1986.