The Red Sox, as posted previously, made some alterations to their lineup tonight, most notably taking out right fielder J.D. Drew and inserting Coco Crisp. The move had nothing to do with Drew’s health, either his long-ailing back or his right shoulder, which was struck by a Grant Balfour fastball last night.
Drew is 1 for 7 with three strikeouts and a walk in his career against Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir. Crisp is hitting 9 for 30 against Kazmir with three doubles. That, really, is what it came down to.
“I really wanted Coco to play,” Francona said. “I didn’t want to take [Jacoby] Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot. So we can have J.D. sitting over there kind of knowing that they’re going to use Balfour. Maybe at one of the most pivotal points, having J.D. sitting over there will make them think twice. Maybe it won’t. I just think, [Kazmir] is so tough on lefties, we had to play a lefty more than we would like. But I don’t want Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot.”
Ellsbury is 4 for 14 against Kazmir, but the larger point is that Francona feels no need to protect Ellsbury against lefties, even ones as diabolical against lefties as Kazmir. In his career, Ellsbury has hit .295 against lefties and slugged .381. Against righties, it’s .275 and .398.
“I think Jacoby may hit for more power against righthanders,” Francona said. “But because of his legs and his ability to hit the ball to all fields, that should never become an issue, a guy you have to protect against lefties or anything like that. He can fight balls off. He doesn’t give a lot of ground with lefties.”
Francona considered playing Alex Cora last night, too, but stuck with Mark Kotsay instead. He may still switch the infield around — Kevin Youkilis to first, Cora to shortstop, Jed Lowrie to third — later in the series. Lowrie and Varitek were both elevated tonight to push down Kotsay, who is 2 for 12 against Kazmir. As always when Crisp plays, Francona likes to employ him as something as a second leadoff hitter at the bottom of the order.
“There’s a chance AC might play Monday,” Francona said. “We ended up moving Kotsay down a little bit and leaving him in there. But yeah, we thought a lot about that.”
First pitch is in roughly two hours.