ST. LOUIS — Forget the notion John Farrell can’t manage a National League game. How ridiculous. The Red Sox played 10 interleague games on the road (6-4) and he managed them flawlessly.
Did he mess up in Game 3 of the World Series with moves and a double-switch that wasn’t made? Yes, and he admitted it. But to hear broad generalizations that the NL game is too fast for him or that he has problems in the National League is simply a knee-jerk reaction to one game.
“There was a lot going on in the dugout. A lot of moving parts,” said Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. “We discussed the double-switch and we decided against it because at the time we were thinking about Brandon Workman pitching multiple innings. And we changed our mind. There were matchups we were thinking about down the road in the game. I’m sure there are things that will be rehashed and rehashed after that one. We’re not saying we did everything the right way and there are things we’d like to have back.”
Farrell addressed the moves again in his pregame press conference Sunday.
“We had Workman at the plate rather than David Ross against [Trevor] Rosenthal, who was throwing a hundred. I wish someone could guarantee it different in the outcome, based on who’s at the plate. I looked at the last two reliever situations between Workman and [Koji] Uehara, combining to give us three innings of work and I wasn’t willing to let Koji go out there for two full innings.
“I felt we needed three innings combined from those two. And how we got there was, unfortunately, with Workman at the plate. If we get through the inning, I think Rosenthal is already out of the game. And knowing Koji is going out for one more inning on our side, I feel like we’re in more of an advantageous spot. It didn’t work out,” Farrell said.
And he acknowledged again that he would have, in retrospect, pulled the double-switch, in which Saltalamacchia was pulled after his at-bat for Ross, who would have hit in Workman’s spot.
“But I wasn’t going to pinch-hit for Workman with no guarantee that [Mike] Napoli drives one out of the park,” Farrell said.
Farrell was scrutinized for replacing shortstop Stephen Drew with pinch-hitter Will Middlebrooks in the seventh. Middlebrooks swung at the first pitch and flied out. That changed the defense to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Middlebrooks at third.
The Matt Carpenter grounder in the hole in the seventh was fielded by Bogaerts, and he made a throw to the right-field side of the base that David Ortiz couldn’t convert into an out. Drew might have made the play. The feeling among some Red Sox people is he would have gotten to the ball quicker than Bogaerts, and made a better throw.
The Red Sox still don’t know how good of a defender Bogaerts is at shortstop. They are learning about him as they go. But in this case, they regretted taking Drew out that late in the game. That surely was one move Farrell would take back. And Drew was back in the lineup at shortstop Sunday, despite his 4-for-44 postseason slump.
Farrell was also questioned about not walking Jon Jay after Allen Craig’s double in the ninth. As it turned out, Farrell got the desired result, with Dustin Pedroia making a diving stop and cutting down the runner at the plate. Obviously, Saltalamacchia needed to hold on to the ball, and that’s when things spiraled out of control.
Farrell’s reasoning was, “It has everything to do with the guy on the mound. In Koji’s case, where he’s been a strikeout pitcher, regardless of lefthanded or righthanded at the plate. We walked [Carlos] Beltran in a situation where it didn’t load the bases, if memory serves me correct. To walk the bases loaded and back Koji into a corner, where he has no room to maneuver inside a given at-bat, didn’t want to do it,” Farrell said.
And then there was the questionable defensive positioning in the seventh with Matt Holliday at the plate. Middlebrooks wasn’t guarding the third-base line and Daniel Nava was shaded toward left-center. Holiday spanked the ball into the left-field corner, past a sprawling Middlebrooks, for a double.
The Red Sox go by their own metrics when positioning the defense. And again, the positioning has been spot-on all season. Traditionally, you would guard the line. In this case, their positioning cost them. Some would say with runners at first and second with no outs, you play it straight, but old-timers say guard the line.
Was it a well-managed game?
No, far from it.
But the Red Sox players should be taking the heat. They have played poorly in two of three games, with terrible mistakes and missteps that have been uncharacteristic of this team.
Farrell, who is the Sporting News manager of the year, has barely been criticized this season. He has managed a team to 97 wins and Game 4 of the World Series after winning the ALDS and ALCS against Tampa Bay and Detroit.
He has beaten teams with David Price, Matt Moore, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Adam Wainwright.
We understand that mismanaged and misplayed games are costly at this time of the season, but it’s also the time of the season in which blanket statements are common as well.
John Farrell can manage National League games. His players can play against National League teams. In this case, he just didn’t manage Game 3 very well, but his players didn’t play very well, either.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.