It’s Xander Bogaerts’ time to shine.
Bogaerts will play third base and bat eighth in Game 5 of the ALCS as the Red Sox search for an offensive spark. Will Middlebrooks, who is 1-for-10 (.100) in the series and 4-for-23 (.174) in the postseason, will be on the bench to begin Thursday’s contest in Detroit.
The decision to insert Bogaerts into the lineup isn’t much of a surprise. The Red Sox’ offense has struggled to produce runs all series, and Bogaerts has shown tremendous poise in his limited opportunities.
“Yeah, as we talked about last night the need for the potential for increased production from the left side of the infield,” manager John Farrell said Thursday. “And then the brief number of at‑bats that Xander has had for us, he’s been very much under control, puts a good swing on the ball last night against [Joaquin] Benoit, has not expanded the strike zone. And I think more than anything, just the maturity that he shows and the offensive potential that he has. I felt like it was time to make a change.”
The only question, really, was whether Bogaerts would replace Middlebrooks at third base or Stephen Drew, who is 1-for-13 in the series and 3-for-28 (.107) in the postseason, at short. Drew has more experience against Game 5 starter Anibal Sanchez, though, and Farrell has seen some positives in the shortstop’s game despite the lack of results. Drew also gives the Red Sox a left-handed bat, while replacing Middlebrooks with Bogaerts is a righty-for-righty swap.
“Given the way the makeup of the other positions are with what we’ve got, didn’t want to go exclusively right-handed,” Farrell told reporters in Detroit. “I’m still seeing a consistent approach from Stephen, yet the results haven’t been there. But it’s not like he’s pulling off of pitches and becoming susceptible to any one thing.”
The Red Sox are no strangers to unloading their bench, so Middlebrooks shouldn’t get too comfortable on the pine. Farrell noted that Middlebrooks is still an important part of the Red Sox’ mix, and didn’t give any indications as to what the Red Sox’ lineup will look like in Game 6.
“The one thing over ‑‑ from time to time in these two series, he’s been a little susceptible to offspeed and certainly some breaking balls that have run away from him,” Farrell said of Middlebrooks. “I wouldn’t expect him to be pleased with not being in the lineup today. That’s just who he is. And that’s the overriding attitude in our clubhouse.
“But for us to continue through this series and advance, it’s going to take everyone on our roster to contribute in some form or fashion, and I would expect that Will would find his way back in the field in these remaining games, particularly in this series. In the conversation with him, yeah, he’s not real happy.”
Bogaerts, who is making his first career playoff start, doubled in the ninth inning of Game 4. In doing so, the 21-year-old became the youngest player in Red Sox history to record a postseason hit.
“The one thing that Xander has shown in the brief opportunities that he has had is a consistent approach,” Farrell said. “It’s time to throw him into the fire,”