10/14/08 7:30 PM ET
Drew to lead off for Sox; Ellsbury sits
Francona shakes up Game 4 lineup to snap slumping bats
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston's regular leadoff man, was out of the lineup for the first time this postseason. Ellsbury is 0-for-14 in the series after going 6-for-18 with three doubles and six RBIs in Boston's four-game AL Division Series against the Angels.
Though Drew is typically a No. 5 or 6 hitter, Francona started him eight times in the leadoff spot in 2008, with the Red Sox going 6-2 in those games. Drew is adept at seeing pitches and getting on base. In this series, he's hitting .273 with a .333 on-base percentage.
With Ellsbury out of the mix, Francona went with Coco Crisp in center field and batting seventh. The switch-hitter, who got the start in Game 2 in place of Drew, is 3-for-10 lifetime against Game 4 starter Andy Sonnanstine, who is right-handed. Drew has also had success against Sonnanstine, going 4-for-11 with a homer and three RBIs.
Sox Game 4 lineup
Because Sonnanstine is one of the best in the league at holding baserunners, Francona felt more comfortable going with a lineup that lacked a stolen-base threat at the top.
"There's a guy pitching that's given up one stolen base all year," Francona said. "Coco's at his best when he can be a free swinger, so rather than stick him up at the top and say he better be patient, we'll put him in an area where hopefully his bat will do some damage. J.D. is our best on-base guy. And again, the stolen-base part, this guy is so good that that doesn't really come into play tonight. The guy gives up one all year in, I think, only four attempts. That's being consistently quick to the plate."
Francona made the opposite switch in last year's ALCS, replacing a slumping Crisp with Ellsbury in Game 6. The Red Sox went with Ellsbury the rest of the way and won the World Series.
This move didn't seem to come with the same type of permanence.
"Well, we've changed the lineup pretty frequently in our postseason this year. I think we've had to," Francona said. "We've had a lot of lineup changes. We've gone with [Alex] Cora. We sat J.D. one night. We're just trying to win as many games as we can. I don't know that we're set right now."
David Ortiz, who is hitless in 10 at-bats in this series and is batting .148 in the postseason, stayed in the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
"They've done a really good job so far against David, really good," Francona said. "I mean, there's going to be nights when guys don't get hits, and we need to find a way to be good enough on those nights to win. There's been times since I've been here where David has absolutely carried us. There's times when guys are struggling and we need to be able to pick up people. That's how we look at it.
Jason Varitek, who is also 0-for-10 in the series, was out of the lineup, but not due to his slump. Kevin Cash, who batted eighth, always catches knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
As for Ellsbury, Francona is hopeful he will rediscover his stroke.
"It seems like the ball is getting deep on him," Francona said. "Because of his legs, there are times when he can get hits either just using the whole field or [not getting a good piece] of some balls and using his legs. The ball is getting in the air a lot. I did think he's actually getting a little closer. There were a couple of balls he didn't get to [in Game 3], but he got closer. It's been tough for him. We've had parts of our lineup where they've really held us down."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.