Daniel Nava has been out of the starting lineup for six of 10 postseason games, a major reduction from his playing time in the regular season.
Jonny Gomes is back in left field for the Red Sox for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. It will be his fourth start in the series.
Nava hit .303 in the regular season and started 108 games in the outfield, the third most on the team. His .831 OPS was third among all American League outfielders thanks to a .385 on-base percentage.
Nava hit .322 with an .894 OPS against righthanded pitchers. Yet he is on the bench against Detroit righthander Max Scherzer.
Manager John Farrell said before the game on Saturday that “it’s been very difficult” to sit Nava down.
“He’s a good hitter and he’s been an important part of this team throughout the course of the year,” Farrell said. “We’re also at a time of the year where the environment is different. That’s not to say he doesn’t perform in this environment. But we have a different feel and a different personality on the field when Jonny’s in the lineup.
“Call it a hunch, call it whatever you might. That’s what it boils down to. It’s not easy to leave that lefthanded bat [of Nava] out of the lineup.”
Nava is 3 for 11 in the four games he has played. Gomes is 4 for 21. But the Red Sox are 5-0 in games Gomes had started and he had contributed in some way in those games, if not always with hits.
“You’ve got to be candid, you’ve got to be truthful and honest,” Farrell said. “As is [Nava] with himself.”
The Red Sox used a fairly strict platoon for much of the season with Nava starting against righthanded pitchers and Gomes against lefthanders. But Gomes hit righthanded starters better than expected [.265 with an .889 OPS in 145 plate appearances] during the regular season.
Gomes also is a better base runner than Nava, something Farrell values.
“The smaller things, defense and base running, the way this series has unfolded, are integral and have a huge impact in the outcomes,” Farrell said.