For the first time this season, Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was asked to put down a sacrifice bunt. It was a decision that backfired and helped lead to Monday’s 3-0 loss against the Tigers.
With the Sox down by two runs against Detroit starter Doug Fister, Daniel Nava doubled to start the seventh inning and Mike Napoli walked.
Bunting seemed unlikely. The Sox are 14th in the American League in sacrifices and are an organization that generally adheres to the concept of not giving away outs.
Saltalamacchia also had not put down a successful sacrifice since 2009.
But manager John Farrell called for a bunt. Saltalamacchia tapped the ball in a little arc in front of the plate, and catcher Alex Avila threw Nava out at third.
Two batters later, the inning was over.
“It was a changeup, so it started to go down and I think I just got on top of it too much and it just popped straight up,” Saltalamacchia said. “It’s something I’ve been working on and I wanted to get it down. It just didn’t happen.”
Farrell said his decision was influenced by the Red Sox grounding into double plays three times previously in the game.
“We’re looking to do anything we can to put a couple of guys in scoring position,” he said.
Farrell also pointed out that Saltalamacchia has been struggling at the plate in recent days. He was hitless in his previous 12 at-bats, including a double play groundout in the second inning and a strikeout in the fifth.
But even with those at-bats, Saltalamacchia was 5 for 10 in his career against Fister with two doubles and a home run. Fister, to that point, had thrown 104 pitches.
“It might not have been the normal request on Salty’s part, but just trying to stay out of the double play and put two men in scoring position,” Farrell said.
Said Saltalamacchia, “It’s not something I normally do but I understand why we did it. I had to do a better job.”
Grinding it out
Outfielders Shane Victorino (left hip) and Jacoby Ellsbury (right hand) left Sunday’s game with minor injuries but were back in the lineup for a day game.
Victorino was 1 for 3 and got hit by a pitch. Ellsbury was 0 for 3 with a walk.
“Hey, we’re at the time of year most every everyday player is dealing with something,” said Farrell. “But they’re ready to go. Everyone here recognizes the situation we’re in and the need to answer the bell every day.”
Farrell feels that attitude comes from within the clubhouse more than from his office.
“When their teammate looks them in the eye and asks are they ready to go today? It’s harder to tell your teammate no than maybe me,” Farrell said. “That’s one of the characteristics of this team is that there is an accountability to one another in here.”
In previous seasons, a team leading its division as the Sox are might have rested a banged-up player in September knowing the wild card was a fallback with little disadvantage.
But in the playoff system that started last season, two wild-card teams meet in a one-game playoff. That makes winning the division more important.
“The last week of the season becomes as critical a time as any,” Farrell said.
“There’s a greater emphasis on winning the division. All of our players and I’m sure every player in the game is well aware of the playoff format. There’s a greater benefit to winning the division.
“Lets backtrack to spring training. If we said, ‘Would you sign up to be one of the two wild cards?’ Any team would say that just to get your foot in the door. But when you get through 155 games with seven to go and if the trade-off is ensuring a series vs. one game, there’s a huge meaning to that.”
Victorino is 24 of 59 (.407) in his last 15 games with 10 extra-base hits, 14 RBIs, and 16 runs.
Tigers star Miguel Cabrera missed his third consecutive game because of an abdominal and groin strain. But he took batting practice on the field and appeared to be swinging the bat without any discomfort. Detroit manager Jim Leyland suggested that Cabrera was available to pinch hit and could return to the lineup Tuesday or Wednesday.
Clay Buchholz is scheduled to make his third — and final — minor league rehabilitation start Wednesday for Triple A Pawtucket. But that could be delayed pending the arrival of his second child. Lindsay Buchholz is due Wednesday. “Without it getting too personal, that’s probably what will take place, and we’re flexible enough both here and at Pawtucket that we can adjust by a day without disrupting any other plans,” Farrell said . . . The Sox fell to 25-13 in day games . . . Hard-luck loser John Lackey has 18 quality starts this season but is 8-6 in those games. The six losses are the most for any major league starter in quality starts . . . On Labor Day, the Red Sox had Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven Tolman throw out the first pitch.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.