Red Sox pregame notes: Why aren't Sox bunting on Miguel Cabrera?

October 15, 2013 - 10:57 am
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DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera is wounded. So why not pounce on a physically vulnerable Tiger? That has been a subject of intrigue in the first two games of the ALCS. At a time when the Tigers slugger shows obvious discomfort in his left leg, the merits of forcing him to test the injury by handling bunts seems obvious. So why is it that the Sox have yet to try dropping a bunt for a hit in this series? "Against the guys that are bunting threats, he has been damn near even with the mound. He's 45 feet from home plate in some cases. In that way, we're probably more willing to hit a ball by him then bunt into what is his own self-imposed shift," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Plus we're facing guys who are up mid- to upper-90s. To think let's just go ahead and bunt it, it's not that easy." There was one player who considered dropping a bunt, but that was a Sox player who presented more of a sneak attack with the strategy. "We saw David Ross try and he's a good bunter," said Farrell. "When David Ross bunts he's going to catch most people by surprise whether they're guarding against it or playing back. Outside of that we're not going to ask them to come out of their game." Perhaps more significantly, Cabrera has started to look healthier at the plate. He has hits in all seven postseason games this year, but in the last three games -- both Game 5 of the ALDS against the Athletics and the first two games of the ALCS -- he's started to drive the ball, hitting going 3-for-11 with two homers and two walks while narrowly missing a third to right field. That said, even as his power numbers took a dive over the final month of the regular season, with just one homer and one double over the last 25 games of the season, the Sox didn't consider Cabrera to be a diminished hitter at the plate. "Knowing the last six weeks or four weeks the power numbers [at the end of the regular season were] down, we haven't viewed it as we have a less than capable hitter here," said Farrell. "We're not trying to fall into any lull of complacency." OTHER RED SOX NOTES -- As Farrell suggested during Monday's off-day, Jonny Gomes is in the lineup and batting seventh, despite his 0-for-9 history against Tigers starter Justin Verlander. Farrell once again pointed to the intangibles offered by the outfielder in explaining the lineup decision. "You can make an argument that if this guy is on you can take all the matchups and throw them out the window," Farrell said of Gomes. "What we've seen is whether it's coming off the bench or in a starting role, Jonny is in the middle of things when we get some things done. That's not being demeaning or not trying to recognize what Daniel Nava's done for us this year, but given what I anticipate what Verlander is going to throw, I like this matchup. "[Gomes is] going to put up a tough at-bat," added Farrell. "If a pitcher is going to make a mistake on the plate he's going to cover it. It's just how it works out. He's actually hit right-handers better this year. I think this is as much the focus and determination, and a genuine want on his part to face right-handers. He's doing whatever he can to shed that plateau statement that's there. We haven't been reluctant to throw him against quality right-handers." Of course, it's also worth noting that, this year, right-handed hitters have performed better against Verlander than lefties. That also plays into the comfort with having Mike Napoli in the lineup, not just for his potential thump but also as a player who is capable of making Verlander work. "Even though the linescore for Mike might not indicate multiple hits, there is still an affect he still has even on days there's been a struggle for him and that's contributing to an overall workload the opposing pitcher," said Farrell. -- Shane Victorino has set a record already for the most HBPs ever absorbed in a single postseason, having been drummed five times in the Sox' first six playoff games. The basis for that unusual on-base skill? "Well, you better have a high pain threshold, for one. Two, in Vic's case, as he's gone to the right side of the plate exclusively, he crowds home plate. And part of that is going to come in to the hit batsman is going to be part of it," said Farrell, whose pregame media session was interrupted briefly when Victorino popped into the interview room to flex his biceps and show off a bruise. "I don't see a guy who's intentionally diving into the strike zone to take a hit by a pitch.  And I think as right'€‘handers have faced him for the first time on the right side of the plate, it might be new for them. If a pitcher has got an intent or desire to pitch him in '€‘'€‘ for a right'€‘handed pitcher to pitch him inside part of the strike zone, there's not much margin for error, there. It's helped us on base, I know that." Tigers manager Jim Leyland suggested that he did not consider the HBPs to represent a matter of shenanigans. "I think Victorino doesn't really care if he gets hit. He stands up on top of the plate. So he does get hit a lot," said Leyland. "When you try to throw the ball inside you hit a guy like Shane, because he's so close to the plate. I don't have any problem with that. It is what it is. You play the game and see how it all plays out." -- Jake Peavy took some amusement at the Game 3 focus on Tigers starter Justin Verlander, noting that the Sox actually have a living, breathing pitcher on the mound as well. "It's almost like we didn't have a starter today," mused Peavy. "I'll tell you this. There ain't any part of Lackey that doesn't think he'll win."

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