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Friday, October 25, 2013
Nava gets starting nod in LF for Game 3

By Joe McDonald

In the first two games of the 109th World Series, Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava had only two plate appearances, both as a pinch-hitter, against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals are throwing right-hander Joe Kelly in Game 3 on Saturday, and Farrell said Friday in St. Louis that he'll pencil Nava into the lineup for his first World Series start, relegating Jonny Gomes to the bench. As expected, Farrell confirmed that David Ortiz will start at first base, which means Mike Napoli will be available for pinch-hitting duties. Stephen Drew will remain at shortstop and Xander Bogaerts at third base. Right-handed pitcher Clay Buchholz remains in line to start Game 4, despite lingering shoulder issues.

Even though Nava dominated right-handed pitching all season, posting a .322 average with 10 homers and 53 RBIs, and Gomes hit .258 with five homers and 25 RBIs against righties, manager John Farrell chose Gomes to start first two games of the World Series. Why? The team usually wins when he's in the lineup. Before Thursday's loss, the Sox had been 7-0 in the playoffs when Gomes started.

In the World Series, Gomes is a combined 0-for-7 in the first two games against St. Louis righties Adam Wainright and Michael Wacha. Even though both of Boston's left fielders want to play, there haven't been any issues between Gomes and Nava.

"Jonny and I have talked about it. We actually think it's kind of comical because we don't really care who plays," Nava said. "As funny as that sounds, because if you're at this point of the season with the team you want to be on, you can't be selfish. If there's ever a time to be selfless, it's right now. If you've got problems with not being in the lineup when we're on the verge of winning the World Series, you might want to check that ego at the door. We have both laughed about it because we don't think it's that big of a deal."

In Game 1, Nava pinch hit for Gomes in the eighth inning and doubled off the Monster. In the dugout, Gomes was on the top step cheering.

"If the roles were reversed, that's where I would be, too," Nava said. "I'm pumped if Jonny does well and I know Jonny's pumped if I do well. I don't think either of us expected to be in this position, in terms of when we look back six years ago. Jonny's story, he wasn't even expecting to get signed, so we're both pumped to be here. At the same time it's like, 'If you want to put him in, fine. If you want to put me in, fine.' We just want to go out and hopefully get us a win."

Before Nava's first career World Series hit, Farrell gave him a heads up early enough so he could prepare mentally as a pinch hitter. Nava produced a double and later scored after he stepped in against hard-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez, who reaches 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.

"To get that hit, when you're in the moment, you really don't take stock of everything, but looking back now, you think about it and realize Papi's got 17 postseason home runs, so that puts it into perspective," Nava said. "For me, it's special and I'll look back on it and it'll mean something to me. In terms of the big picture it's just one hit and it wasn't a big hit. You have to balance things out."

In Game 2, Nava was inserted as a pinch hitter for Drew with two outs and the Red Sox trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal struck out Nava swinging.

Nava is one of the reasons why the Red Sox are playing the World Series. A product of junior college and independent baseball, the 30-year-old is genuinely excited about playing on the biggest stage with one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.

"I don't think if I would have taken the road to get here that I would have had as much of an appreciation for the World Series and the work it takes to get here," Nava said. "The concept of playing for something means a lot more when you're surrounded by a bunch of guys who want the same thing. You don't feel like going 0-for-4 is that big of a deal as long as we get that win. It's been fun but to look back on the journey, obviously I'd like to think there are more pages and chapters to be written about. I feel pretty blessed. I could be washing uniforms still, or doing something that would be more demanding than playing baseball. God's been good. I've got nothing to complain about."