COMMENTARY | There's no denying that the Boston Red Sox have themselves an excellent manager in John Farrell. But his managerial decisions can leave something to be desired.
Over the season, Farrell has made some questionable decisions that have cost the Red Sox runs and even games. An August 20 game in San Francisco saw Farrell turn to Franklin Morales in a tied ninth inning rather than red-hot closer Koji Uehara. Marco Scutaro promptly sent his team home with the win and the Red Sox into second place in the AL East.
Farrell has made odd pinch-hitting decisions as well, often times taking Will Middlebrooks out of the game when he was the team's hottest hitter. His lineups have featured as much Daniel Nava as Jonny Gomes, despite the switch-hitting Nava being effective from both sides of the plate and playing much better defense than Gomes.
Monday, during the third game of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, Farrell made more questionable decisions.
In the 8th inning, with no outs in a tied game, Quintin Berry on second and Mike Napoli facing a 2-0 count, rather than bunt Berry to third, Napoli was given free reign to do as he pleased. This is a guy who had struck out more than all but three AL players on the year. Though Napoli didn't whiff this time, he may as well have; his grounder to short prevented Berry from advancing.
The next batter, Farrell exchanged Gomes for Nava again. Nava has been the stronger hitter all year -- .303/.385/.445 to .247/.344/.426 -- though Gomes bests him with RISP. Still, it never even came to that as Gomes was intentionally sent to first base. As a result, the Red Sox's bench was shallower and their defense weakened, and they still didn't have a lead or a man on third.
But Farrell's biggest blunder had already occurred back in the fifth inning. The Red Sox clinging to a three-run lead, they had the Rays down two outs with two on and first base open. Evan Longoria -- the Rays' best power hitter -- was due up. With a tiring Clay Buchholz on the mound, common sense here says to send Longoria to first, facing Wil Myers instead. Myers is a talented hitter in his own right, but also a rookie who had been 1-for-15 in the postseason and 0-for-8 vs. Boston.
Farrell opted not to walk him, and Longoria made him regret the decision, tying the game.
The Red Sox are not doomed by any means, but Game 3 was one they should have won. Had it not been for some questionable decisions, they might have. Game 4 will give Farrell, and the rest of the team, an opportunity to redeem themselves. It's one they simply cannot afford to blow. A Game 5, even in Boston, would leave the Rays with all the momentum and either David Price or Matt Moore on the mound.
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