Stephen Drew is 3 for 32 in the postseason and 1 for 17 in the American League Championship Series. He has left 10 runners on base in the ALCS alone.
Manager John Farrell is standing against the tide. Drew will be playing shortstop in Game 6 on Saturday.
“There’s been a lot calling for Stephen’s head, seemingly, but he’s a very good player,” Farrell said Friday. “In these games defense is a premium. And when a defensive play hasn’t been made and you give a team an extra out, as good as these two teams are, you’re likely going to pay for that.
“I’m not saying that we don’t have good defenders otherwise. But Stephen has taken good swings. We all recognize the struggles that are there. But he shores up the middle of our infield so well, I’m certainly going to preserve that.”
Drew graded out as one of the best defensive shortstops in the AL this season and he was second with a .777 OPS. But the postseason has been a bad one at the plate for him.
“You know it’s frustrating. I know I’m trying to figure some things out,” he said. “I’m not trying to be timid in my at-bats. It’s something that is frustrating, but at the same time I don’t take it in the field, which is really good.
“The main goal is to go out there and play good defense and then come in and do my job at the plate. So, I’ve played really good defensively, made some good plays, been there at the right time.”
That Farrell has his back means a lot to Drew.
“It’s huge,” he said. “For me, I’m even-keel regardless. I go out and play the game the best I can. Some days are frustrating, and this postseason for me looking back at my at-bats, I’ve had some good at-bats. I’ve missed pitches.”
Four of the five games in the series have been decided by one run. A good defensive shortstop, Farrell feels, is paramount. On Thursday, Drew pulled down an errant throw from Jon Lester to start an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning.
And Drew is certainly due for a big hit.
“You never know when you’re going to come out of that,” he said. “When I do come out of it, I know my numbers are pretty good. So, hopefully, I come out of it pretty soon and will be able to help out in an offensive way.”
Farrell said Xander Bogaerts would start at third base after going 1 for 3 with a walk Thursday. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will catch and the expectation is that Jonny Gomes will play left field. The Sox are 5-0 in games Gomes has started in the postseason.
The Red Sox have lost on back-to-back days at Fenway Park just once since mid-May. Facing All-Stars Max Scherzer on Saturday and possibly Justin Verlander on Sunday will not be easy. But home-field advantage is now significant.
“It’s always huge being able to play at home, especially in front of this crowd,” Mike Napoli said. “I remember coming in as an opposing player. It’s intimidating. The crowd gets on you. They get loud.”
The Sox were 53-28 at home during the regular season and are 3-1 in the postseason.
“It was important to us as we were finishing out the final week of the regular season to secure home-field advantage,” Farrell said. “I can’t say that we sat around and said this is what it will mean in Game 6 or Game 7.
“But I think, again, it goes back to what we set out in spring training, and that’s been the mantra all year long, is what does tonight have in store for us and how do you go about to find a way to win a game? If that has other meanings such as securing home-field advantage, so be it.”
The Sox were 12 of 90 (.133) in the first three games of the series with seven runs and four extra-base hits. They also struck out 43 times.
They are 22 of 75 (.293) in the two games since with seven runs and nine extra-base hits. They have struck out 18 times.
“First few games we weren’t swinging the bats really well and weren’t finding the holes. Past few games we’ve been able to,” Saltalamacchia said.
Said Napoli: “We were a confident group coming in. They were pitching really well the first couple of games and shut us down. But our pitchers did a great job of keeping us in games and we were able to scratch away.”
Cuban pitcher signed
The Red Sox signed 27-year-old Cuban righthander Dalier Hinojosa to a minor league contract, according to Baseball America.
Hinojosa pitched for Guantanamo in the Cuban League from 2005-12 and in a series of international tournaments. He struck out 115 over 121⅔ innings during the 2011-12 season. Hinojosa projects as a relief pitcher.
In on the act
Dropkick Murphys will perform the national anthem before Game 6 and play “Shipping Up To Boston” at some point during the evening . . . Through Thursday, 12 of the 30 postseason games were decided by one run . . . The Red Sox are 5-0 in the sixth game of the ALCS in their history . . . Shane Victorino is 2 for 21 in the series, but will remain hitting second. Farrell said there was consideration given to moving him down in the order but no change would be made yet . . . The Sox arrived back at Fenway around 4:30 Friday morning from Detroit, but returned 12 hours later for a workout. The Tigers did not have a workout.