I try to avoid gloating in print, but the Red Sox performance Friday night was just what I predicted yesterday before game time. They became a defensive juggernaut with the insertion of Iglesias in the the infield. Even Mike Napoli, never touted for his prowess at first base, delivered several critical stops earning the commendation of pitcher John Lackey. As ESPN noted this morning:
Indeed, while Napoli deserves loads of credit for his stellar play with the glove, the entire infield was on its game. And it had to be, for Lackey was getting the Cleveland hitters to pound everything into the ground. In addition to eight strikeouts, he recorded 12 outs on the ground and just one through the air in seven stellar innings.
Iglesias received notice as the “brand-new third baseman” for making his two chances “neither of which were routine, look easy.” Operating from the corner instead of the center of the diamond, Iglesias still sets the tone for the defense. Both Dustin Pedroia and Lackey himself made athletic plays to cut down potential rallies by the Indians.
The Red Sox are a different team when the defense raises its game. Mike Carp ended a 0 for 21 slump with a titanic three-run homer. Ellsbury drove in two runs for a month-long total of 5. And the team left only three runners on base. They often leave that many on in one inning.
With Iglesias on the field, we have a new version of the Red Sox, the “Darned Sox.” They stand up, they hold, they stretch, they make plays and even drive in runs. A few more runs won’t hurt these Sox.
What happened to the sweet April surprise? What happened to the timely hitting and the shutdown pitching? What happened to the early inning offensives that put the opposition back on its heels? What happened to the impregnable infield?
In the words of the Obamanator, “That’s above my pay grade.”
Still I’d love to float a theory like everyone else in my pay grade. In a crisp soundbite I say: Bring back Iglesias! This is not so much a solution as a strategy. Here’s the reasoning.
The infield was impregnable in April, because Iglesias covered most of the left side and made an extra out every game. But he was worth more than the out, he brought confidence to the whole infield, so that they played an error-less month.
Stephen Drew is just hitting his stride, so move him to third. Middlebrooks is still not hitting his, so send him for a stretch in Pawtucket. With two shortstops on the left side, you have a impermeable infield.
However, this arrangement will not be permanent, because Drew will get hurt again, probably in the next four weeks. The Red Sox should know this, because they have previously waded in the Drew gene pool. Injuries are inevitable in this family. So Middlebrooks should not get comfortable in Pawtucket.
Let’s get the lead man on. Keep a consistent bat in the lead off spot. Ellsbury is not getting on base enough, so he should probably be batting fifth or sixth. Victorino and Nava have shown the best aptitude for getting on, so give them each an audition. Pedroia goes back to batting second, then Ortiz and Napoli. The rest of the line-up can be adapted for the opposing pitcher.
There’s enough here to shake up the line-up. The rest is patience and keeping a positive attitude. The veterans on the team know where these come from.
The pitching will continue to be the strength of this team, even with the injuries. Just give Allen Webster a big league chance, and he’ll fill a spot in the rotation.
There’s a little Sox Sanity for ya and way above my pay grade.