World Series Game 5: Gomes cleans up, Craig plays first base

Rob Carr

The Game 5 lineups are posted, and a couple of things jumped out at me.

One, the powerful Boston Red Sox are facing one of baseball's greatest right-handed pitchers, and their cleanup hitter's got a .225/.310/.423 career batting line against right-handed pitchers. I'm sure that Jonny Gomes is far from the worst cleanup hitter in World Series history. But he's in the conversation, recent-memory edition.

I saw something about Gomes "protecting" No. 3 hitter David Ortiz in the lineup. Maybe someone really smart can explain that to me. It seems to me that the obvious move, with a right-hander pitching, is to work carefully to Ortiz and then attack Gomes. Isn't that the opposite of protection? Seems like you'd want Daniel Nava, who punishes right-handers, batting after Ortiz. They'd still probably work carefully to Ortiz -- we know Mike Matheny's terrified of the Papster -- but at least Nava might make Matheny pay for his terror. Yes, Gomes might, too. It's just less likely.

Granted, having Gomes in the No. 4 slot might make Matheny's job more difficult when he's playing match-ups later in the game. Here's what the lineup looks like, with the switch-hitting Nava listed as lefty hitter (because he's lousy batting right-handed) and the pitcher's spot omitted:

L R L R L R L R

Nifty, huh? It's possible that Matheny's brain will explode in the seventh or eighth inning. In fact, it's quite possible that making Matheny's life difficult late in the game easily outweighs any concern about who's batting cleanup, per se. Especially since we know how little the batting order really matters. It's just an odd thing to see.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to see that Stephen Drew's still in the lineup, batting seventh. Sunday night in Game 4, Stephen Drew did something -- hit the sacrifice fly, maybe -- and Joe Buck referenced what good luck that was for the Red Sox, considering that Drew was "in there for his defense" ... Really? Yes, he's been terrible with the bat all month. You know what, though? Among MLB's regular shortstops this year, Drew had the fourth-best OPS.

Unless he's hurt, he's going to hit eventually. Maybe it happens before the end of the World Series, and maybe it doesn't. But you don't yank a good hitter who's going through a 14-game slump. Unless he's hurt, or emotionally damaged, or you don't understand how baseball works. So score one for John Farrell, who so far has resisted the impulse to panic.

Finally, I'm a little surprised that Allen Craig is starting for the Cardinals at first base. If you believe the reports, he's barely able to jog. Craig's a better hitter than Matt Adams, but the difference between them wouldn't seem to balance the difference between their abilities to actually move around on the baseball field. Basically, this move doesn't look real good unless Craig knocks in a couple of runs.

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