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Alex Speier

Red Sox have not been right when facing lefties

In his last 18 plate appearances against lefties, Chris Young is 0 for 15 with three walks and five strikeouts.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

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While the Red Sox quite reasonably exhibited a sense of satisfaction in the wake of their romp in Rogers Centre, the series nonetheless highlighted an ongoing vulnerability of the Red Sox. The team has been shut down repeatedly by lefthanded starters, a pattern that continued with the efforts of Brett Anderson and J.A. Happ in the final two contests.

That duo allowed two combined runs in 11⅔ innings, marking the 10th consecutive time in which a lefthanded starter allowed three or fewer runs in at least five innings against the Sox. In six of those outings, a southpaw starter held the Red Sox to one or no runs. The combined numbers are striking: In their last 10 starts against the Red Sox, lefties have a 2.28 ERA while holding Boston hitters to a .223/.282/.350 line.

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Those recent struggles highlight what has been a season-long issue for the Sox. Just two players — Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. — have put up notably better numbers against lefties this year than they posted in 2016; both are currently on the disabled list. Xander Bogaerts’s OPS has dipped more than 160 points against lefties; Hanley Ramirez, who homered against Happ on Wednesday, has seen his OPS decrease by more than 300 points against southpaws. Sandy Leon has endured an OPS decline of nearly 400 points against lefties, and Chris Young has seen his OPS nosedive from .999 against lefties to .580 this year.

“The two guys who had big years for us [in 2016] against lefthanders are both [Young] and Hanley,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When you plan for similar production and your roster reflects that type of production, it leaves you a little bit less, I don’t want to say equipped, but it leaves you less productive.”

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Young’s struggles have been particularly severe: In his last 18 plate appearances against lefties dating to Aug. 4, he’s 0 for 15 with three walks and five strikeouts. Meanwhile, Bryce Brentz has posted a .290/.400/.591 line with eight homers against lefties in Pawtucket. Though he’s not on the 40-man roster right now, the Sox’ struggles against lefties are nearing a point where they almost have to see if he can cure to their woes.

Not right vs. lefties Red Sox with 50+ plate appearances vs. lefties in both 2016 and 2017
Player Year PA HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Chris Young 2016 83 3 .329 .410 .589 .999
Chris Young 2017 98 1 .190 .306 .274 .580
Hanley Ramirez 2016 143 11 .346 .420 .677 1.097
Hanley Ramirez 2017 101 6 .212 .337 .459 .795
Dustin Pedroia 2016 136 3 .305 .397 .415 .812
Dustin Pedroia 2017 66 1 .333 .462 .471 .932
Sandy Leon 2016 81 4 .373 .450 .612 1.062
Sandy Leon 2017 70 1 .246 .300 .369 .669
Jackie Bradley 2016 181 3 .239 .309 .356 .665
Jackie Bradley 2017 109 3 .333 .422 .495 .917
Xander Bogaerts 2016 145 6 .304 .393 .480 .873
Xander Bogaerts 2017 102 1 .278 .343 .367 .710
Mookie Betts 2016 139 8 .264 .302 .512 .814
Mookie Betts 2017 127 3 .290 .394 .449 .842
TEAM 2016 1512 50 .277 .350 .445 .795
TEAM 2017 1162 26 .269 .354 .411 .769
SOURCE: Baseball-reference.com

The Sox’ struggles against lefthanded starters may be minimized against potential AL playoff foes. Aside from the Yankees, who feature CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery, and Jaime Garcia, there are few lefthanded starters among the top contenders. Cleveland may feature an entirely righthanded postseason rotation (though lefty Ryan Merritt has a 1.15 ERA in three starts as a recent callup), Minnesota has an all-righty rotation, while Houston (Dallas Keuchel), Baltimore (Wade Miley), and the Angels (Tyler Skaggs) likely would feature just one lefty.

Still, as much as the Red Sox are hitting their stride with a postseason berth seeming all but certain barring a historic collapse, the team remains anxious about its struggles against lefties, with a need to find production from — or in place of — players who have seen their numbers crater this year.


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.