10/18/2013 11:44 P.M. ET
Victorino to bat righty the rest of the way
By Ian Browne and Jason Mastrodonato / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Right fielder Shane Victorino, invaluable to the Red Sox all season, has been mired in a slump for the first five games of the American League Championship Series (2-for-21, nine strikeouts).
In Game 5 he thought that batting left-handed -- something he hardly did at all over the last three months of the season -- might help.
It didn't, so he indicated that he will stay on the right side for the rest of the postseason.
"I've faced [Game 5 starter Anibal] Sanchez so many times in Miami, and I've had success. I thought maybe I would try it," Victorino said. "It's just hard. I haven't done it in so long. I felt comfortable, and I saw the ball, but the fact is, where the swing is at, I thought I was trying to rush to get everything. I'm not saying it's any better on the right side, but I'm going to focus on hitting righty, just ride it out and focus on that."
The Red Sox won't argue. Victorino was far better as a right-handed hitter this season (.309, 12 homers, .874 OPS in 303 plate appearances) than lefty (.274, three homers, .706 OPS in 229 plate appearances).
At the beginning of August, he started hitting primarily right-handed because of weakness in his left hamstring.
He has remained in the No. 2 spot in the batting order throughout his ALCS slump.
Could that change?
"There's been some thought to that," said manager John Farrell. "But to the point of making a change, we haven't gotten to that point yet."
Farrell sticking with slumping Drew at shortstop
BOSTON -- Choosing glove over bat at a premium defensive position, manager John Farrell will continue to go with Stephen Drew at shortstop when the American League Championship Series continues on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
Drew has gone 3-for-32 with 10 strikeouts during the postseason, but he's made key plays at short while providing consistent defense up the middle, something Farrell doesn't want to lose.
"There's been a lot [of people] calling for Stephen's head, seemingly, but he's a very good player," Farrell said. "And in these games, defense is at a premium. And when a defensive play hasn't been made and you give a team an extra out, as good as these two teams are, you're likely going to pay for that."
The only other shortstop option on the 25-man roster, Xander Bogaerts, will get the nod at third base instead of Will Middlebrooks for Game 6.
"I'm not saying that we don't have good defenders otherwise," Farrell said, "but Stephen has taken good swings. We all recognize the struggles that are there. But he shores up the middle of our infield so well; I'm certainly going to preserve that. And yes, Stephen will be in the lineup tomorrow."
Enduring and eventually coming out of slumps is nothing new for Drew. Although he's yet to collect a multihit game while taking at least two at-bats in each of Boston's nine postseason games, he went through similar stretches of at least nine games 12 other times in his career, including three this season. He responded with big streaks in the other direction all three times in 2013.
After hitting .154 in April, he started May by hitting .400 in his first eight games; he hit .370 with six extra-base hits in a seven-game stretch following a rough patch from June 8-19; and following an 11-game stretch from Aug. 20 to Sept. 3 in which he hit .229, he had a big game against the Tigers and went on to hit .292 with an .868 OPS over his final 19 games.
So as long as he continues to play well at shortstop, it appears Farrell will reward him with the chance to break out of a slump yet again.
"It's just baseball. It's a crazy game, it really is," Drew said. "The good thing is, we're winning. That's what matters. Hopefully, I'll come out of this pretty soon and we're still winning games."
Drew compared his play with that of Mike Napoli, who was 2-for-17 with eight strikeouts before hitting a home run in Game 3 and then again in Game 5.
"And it's crazy, because Nap just came out of it," Drew said. "Everyone's like, 'Oh, he's striking out.' We're like, 'Dude, who cares? He's going to come out of it sooner than later.' Look what he's done the last few games for us. It's one of those things that you finally find something that clicks and stick with that."
Salty to be back behind the dish on Saturday
BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the primary catcher all season, but the team was never shy about using backup David Ross.
For Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, which continues on FOX on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, Saltalamacchia will be back behind the plate.
Ross started both games this series in which Jon Lester pitched because of the successful way they worked together in Lester's recent starts. But with Clay Buchholz on the mound against Max Scherzer on Saturday, Saltalamacchia was the choice.
Saltalamacchia has hit .333 off Scherzer in his career and is hitting .273 with five RBIs off him this postseason.
"The biggest thing is just hitting their mistakes," Saltalamacchia said. "When they make mistakes over the plate, we can't let them get away with it."
Ross had a big night on Thursday, going 2-for-3 with a double while being involved in a pair of home-plate collisions, one of them knocking Tigers catcher Alex Avila out of the game.
Ross is 3-for-9 this postseason, his fifth as a Major Leaguer.
Sox know that Cabrera, though hurt, still dangerous
BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia put in words what everyone else has noticed about Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, an American League MVP candidate who has been hindered by injuries.
"There is definitely a difference," Saltalamacchia said.
Cabrera hit .421 off the Red Sox during the regular season, but he's hitting just .278 during the AL Championship Series.
"You can see it in the way he plays and the way he drives the ball," Saltalamacchia said. "He's a guy who can drive it out anywhere in the ballpark, so when you see him flying out to the warning track in right or not getting to that fastball, you know there's something there.
"But you never take that for granted. He's still a dangerous hitter at any point, and you have to treat him as that. That's why we've been able to keep him tamed a little bit."
The last two times Cabrera was up late in a game the Red Sox were leading, manager John Farrell used Junichi Tazawa.
Tazawa has thrown six pitches to Cabrera, all fastballs. The results? Swinging strikeout. Double play.
"When we've been hurt by Cabrera, it's probably been some offspeed pitches that haven't gotten to the spot," Farrell said. "You're almost looking for ways to minimize the damage against such a great hitter as him. And typically, that could be a well-located fastball.
"And that's just [Tazawa's] strength. Given the guys that we have available in the bullpen, we felt like it was the best matchup. It wasn't like it was targeted going in."
Although Tazawa's tailing fastball has been the answer so far, there's no guarantee that will continue to be the case, and the Red Sox plan to switch their approach with each of Cabrera's at-bats.
As catcher David Ross warned, "I'm taking it lightly that Miguel Cabrera is supposedly injured. He's a really good player, [but] his 70 [percent] is better than my 100."