The Boston Red Sox begin a crucial 10-game road trip Tuesday night with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.

But the Red Sox won’t have one of their most regular contributors in the lineup at the start of this all-important stretch.

Masataka Yoshida’s name didn’t appear on manager Alex Cora’s lineup card for the series opener against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital. Even with an off day Monday and the Nationals starting a right-hander, Cora elected to sit Yoshida as he told reporters prior to the game he believes the Japanese outfielder is feeling fatigued at this point in the season.

Cora even went as far as to suggest that Yoshida could miss Tuesday’s matchup with the Nationals as well.

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“We’ll see where we’re at tomorrow but I think he’ll benefit from this one,” Cora told reporters, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo. “You can see it, the way he’s moving and obviously, hitting-wise, a lot of ground balls and all that stuff. We’ll give him today and we’ll see tomorrow where we’re at.

“He’s not using his legs. Even in his takes, he’s out in front. Good for him that for him, when he struggles he still gets hits anyways. But there’s a lot of ground balls right now, a lot of rollovers… That’s one of the red flags that we heard from the people in Orix (Yoshida’s former team).”

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Yoshida has acclimated well to his first Major League Baseball season, but perhaps the grind of a 162-game campaign is starting to get to him. He was used to a heavy workload while starring for the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball, playing in at least 120 games in four out of the last five seasons, including reaching a high mark of 143 contests played in both 2018 and 2019.

But the travel demands are much greater in MLB than in Japan, and that could be causing some fatigue on Yoshida’s part.

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He did start in every game of Boston’s recent 10-game homestand, but he has seen his production dip since the All-Star break. Yoshida batted .316 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs over the first half of the season compared to collecting a .252 batting average with two homers and 12 RBIs in 26 games post-break.

The Red Sox are in a position to give Yoshida additional rest, though, given their surplus of outfielders. Jarren Duran, Adam Duvall and Alex Verdugo got the start Tuesday against the Nationals while Rob Refsnyder is a capable bat on the bench, especially against left-handed hitters.

Cora is being cautious with Yoshida by keeping him out of the lineup, but probably wants to make sure a key bat in Boston’s order is feeling fresh for pivotal contests against the New York Yankees and Houston Astros later in the road trip.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images