Rafael Devers is 4-for-10 with two RBIs inÂ three postseason games.
Yet, when the Boston Red Sox begin Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, the young third baseman will be watching from an all-too-familiar place: the bench.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora removed any possible third-base lineup drama Monday when he revealed Eduardo Nunez, not Devers, will start at third for Game 3 in Houston.
The decision is somewhat perplexing for a few reasons. The obvious is Devers’ aforementioned success this fall, not to mention his .364 batting average with two home runs last postseason. But there’s another case for Devers: Houston’s Game 3 starter, Dallas Kuechel, actually has reverse splits.
The left-hander has performed better against right-handed hitters this season, limiting them to a .259 average, than left-handed batters, who hit .281 off the southpaw. It’s worth pointing out the obvious sample size discrepancy, and there’s virtually no difference in OPS.
So, what was Cora’s reasoning?
“Although the numbers look like (Keuchel’s) been getting hit by lefties, you start looking at damage and what we can do offensively, and I think it’s a better matchup for us,” Cora explained to reporters Monday. “I think (Tuesday) it will be kind of like when we faced (Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia) in New York, probably the same lineup. And we go from there.”
Nunez also theoretically gives the Red Sox a better defensive setup, but the utility man looked far from flawless in Game 1. He misjudged a hot-shot George Springer ground ball that resulted in a two-run single in the second inning, and he also made an error on a would-be double play ball later in the game. Nunez also is struggling at the plate, going just 2-for-14 in the playoffs.
Cora pushed all the right buttons in the Division Series vs. the Yankees, so he’s somewhat earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to lineup decisions, and Nunez, for whatever it’s worth, has two hits in four career at-bats against Keuchel.
Leaving Devers on the bench also will give Cora a pinch-hit option later in the game against a Houston bullpen that has just one left-handed pitcher.
“(Devers) is doing a good job,” Cora said. “We’ve got a few matchups that probably late in the game tomorrow we can take advantage of it if they bring the righties and he’s locked in.”