|ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2013||[Print without images]|
DETROIT -- In the end, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, his decision to start Xander Bogaerts at third base came down to this:
"Time to throw him in the fire."
Bogaerts responded, going 1-for-3 with a double as the Red Sox took Game 5 of the American League Championship Series by a 4-3 score to move within a win of the World Series.
Farrell broke the news Wednesday night to Bogaerts that he would be playing Thursday night after Boston's 7-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers. He told Will Middlebrooks on Thursday that he was out of the lineup.
|Xander Bogaerts (right) starts at third base for the Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Tigers.|
Bogaerts, who turned 21 on Oct. 1, became the youngest player ever to start a postseason game for the Red Sox. Babe Ruth, who was 21 years and 246 days old when he started in the 1916 World Series, was previously the youngest.
Bogaerts had made two pinch-hit appearances in the ALCS. He popped out against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit for the final out of Detroit's 1-0 win in Game 1, then vowed afterward that he would do "some damage" against Benoit the next time he faced him.
That came Wednesday night, when Bogaerts lined a ground-rule double to right field off Benoit in the ninth inning of Detroit's 7-3 win.
"As we talked about last night, just the need for more production from the left side of the infield," Farrell said, discussing his decision.
"And the one thing Xander has shown in the brief opportunities he has had is I think a consistent approach, and it's time to throw him in the fire."
Middlebrooks is 4-for-23 in the postseason and 1-for-10 in the ALCS. In his last 15 games in the regular season, he was just 8-for-58 with one walk, making him 12-for-81 (.148) with four walks and 27 strikeouts, including the postseason.
"Just becoming a little susceptible to off-speed, changeups and breaking balls," Farrell said.
Could Bogaerts' insertion in the lineup continue beyond Game 5?
"We'll see how we go," Farrell said. "To me, it's going to take everybody on our team to advance. That doesn't mean Will will not appear somewhere else in these final three games. Like I said, it's going to take contributions from everybody on this team."
Shortstop Stephen Drew, meanwhile, is batting just .059 (3-for-31) with one walk in the postseason. Why did Farrell choose Middlebrooks to sit instead of Drew?
"Because of the right-hander on the mound [Anibal Sanchez], still want another left-handed bat," Farrell said. "Given the makeup of the other positions that we've got, didn't want to go exclusively right-handed.
"Still seeing a consistent approach from Stephen, just not seeing the results. But it's not like he's pulling off pitches or becoming susceptible to one thing."
Farrell started two other right-handed hitters -- Jonny Gomes in left field and David Ross behind the plate -- instead of switch-hitters Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, respectively.
Bogaerts, who began the season ranked No. 8 by Baseball America on its top prospects list, is only one season removed from Class A ball, having begun the 2012 season with Salem in the Carolina League. He split this season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket before being promoted to the Red Sox on Aug. 19 and making his big league debut the next day, going 0-for-3 while starting at shortstop in San Francisco.
He played in 18 games for the Red Sox, batting .250 (11-for-44), with two doubles, a home run and five walks.
"I think the overriding thing is the approach that we see," Farrell said of turning to Bogaerts. "He seemingly doesn't pull off of pitches; if a pitcher looks to attack him away, he doesn't expand the zone, and even in that first at-bat against Benoit, I thought the most impressive 'take' was the split he took with two strikes and didn't offer at it.
"He shows the emotional control under the environment, and this is a unique environment right now, as compared to the regular season."