It’s Daniel Nava’s time to shine.
Nava enjoyed an excellent regular season with the Red Sox, yet the 30-year-old has spent most of the ALCS and World Series on the bench, as John Farrell has opted to go with Jonny Gomes in left field. Nava will return to the Red Sox’ lineup for Game 3 of the World Series, though, and the move couldn’t come sooner.
“Obviously I’m excited,” Nava told reporters in St. Louis on Friday. “You want to get out there. You want to help the team win. We had obviously a tough game the last game. I’m excited. I’ve heard a lot about the stadium and the fans and everything that goes along with playing in St. Louis. To experience that as well, it reminds me of playing at home with the good fan base. I’m excited to experience that within the context of playing in the World Series.”
Nava has handled his drop in playing time with the utmost professionalism — which is really the hallmark of this year’s Red Sox team. If he was upset, however, it would certainly be understandable, as Nava deserves to be in the starting lineup more often than not.
Gomes has been an integral part of the Red Sox’ success this season, and his grit, intangibles and overall flair for the dramatic are all important factors when the stakes are raised in October. Nava remains the better option to start these World Series games in St. Louis, though, and the Game 3 lineup change should benefit the Red Sox.
Nava ranked fifth in the American League with a .385 on-base percentage — only Mike Trout (.432) had a better OBP among American League outfielders. Nava ranked third among AL outfielders with an .831 OPS and finished eighth in the league with a .303 (139-for-458) average. His numbers were especially good in the second half (.336, .410 OBP, .889 OPS).
Based on stats, starting Nava over Gomes is a no-brainer, especially when comparing Nava’s numbers versus right-handers (.322 average [10-for-339], .411 OBP, .894 OPS) to Gomes’ numbers versus righties (.258 average [39-for-151], .341 OBP, .745 OPS). Sure, the Red Sox went 7-0 with Gomes in the starting lineup before their Game 2 loss to the Cardinals, but Gomes is hitting .156 (5-for-32) this postseason and remains a better bench option against a team whose rotation is comprised entirely of right-handed pitchers.
Nava hit .167 (2-for-12) when coming off the bench during the regular season, while Gomes hit .256 (10-for-39) with a .453 OBP as a sub. Gomes, of course, drilled an MLB-best four pinch-hit home runs as well. Simply put, the Red Sox are better off saving Gomes for the later innings.
Yes, Gomes’ energy is an asset. But in a series in which each game is expected to come down to the wire, the Red Sox are better off picking their spots for that infusion of energy.