His most startling lineup may have been the one he used on Tuesday in Cleveland. After dropping Carl Crawford to the seven-hole on Sunday in Texas, Francona moved Crawford up to the two-hole. That decision forced him to move Dustin Pedroia to the three-hole.
All the while, Adrian Gonzalez, arguably the team's best hitter, has predominantly sat at No. 5 behind Kevin Youkilis. Against a right-hander on Wednesday, though, Gonzalez and Youkilis flip-flopped.
To say Francona has juggled the lineup may be an understatement.
In using three different No. 3 hitters this season, it appears that the spot is still up for grabs. Traditional baseball wisdom says that the three-hole is typically reserved for the best hitter.
If that's the logic you want to use, then Gonzalez has to be the guy. Gonzalez will only become a better hitter when he gets his shot at Fenway Park. The left-handed hitting Gonzalez can hold his own against lefties, too. He hits them at a .262 clip, which you would have to assume could keep him in the three-hole against righties or lefties.
While Crawford hasn't spent as much time as Gonzalez at the three-hole in his career, it's a spot in the lineup he's familiar with. He's occupied that spot in the lineup 203 times in his career, hitting .291 with a .784 OPS in doing so. What may strengthen Crawford's case for the three-hole is that he really isn't a great fit anywhere else in the lineup. It seems like both he and Francona would like to avoid putting him at leadoff. But he's not really a cleanup hitter, and, if you drop him any further in the lineup, you're wasting his impressive speed.
One viable scenario, the one we saw on Tuesday, is to move Crawford to No. 2, and then put Pedroia in the No. 3 hole. Pedroia's versatility really steers this scenario. Simply put, he can hit anywhere in the lineup. He's proven that over the years, and, while he's only played 12 games at the three-spot, he's hitting just under .300 in those appearances.
Which No. 3 hitter gives the Red Sox the strongest lineup? Share your thoughts below.
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