Saturday night the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers will meet in Game 7 of the NLCS at Miller Park. The loser goes home and the winner advances to take on the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. .
The Red Sox beat the Astros in five games to clinch the American League pennant earlier this week. They'll spend these next few days resting up and preparing for the World Series, which begins Tuesday night at Fenway Park. One big question the Red Sox have to answer: What do they do with their lineup on the road without the designated hitter?
Here is the standard lineup the Red Sox used in the final games of the ALCS:
- RF Mookie Betts
- LF Andrew Benintendi
- DH J.D. Martinez
- SS Xander Bogaerts
- 1B Steve Pearce or Mitch Moreland
- 2B Ian Kinsler
- 3B Rafael Devers
- C Christian Vazquez
- CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
The names are more important than the batting order. Betts, Benintendi and Bradley are the three starting outfielders while Martinez is the DH. When the World Series is in an NL park, there is no DH, so something has to give.
Rather than remove one of his key players from the lineup, Red Sox manager Alex Cora hinted at a more creative solution Saturday.
"(Betts) already played second in the regular season. There's always a chance," said Cora. "We've got some pretty good second basemen, we've got some pretty good outfielders. Like I said, we're in the World Series. That conversation was gonna come up. One thing for sure, J.D. will play. That's clear. We'll see which alignment is better, which lineup is better and we'll make decisions accordingly."
Betts was originally drafted as a shortstop back in the day and he spent most of his time in the minors at second base. He didn't begin to play the outfield regularly until reaching Triple-A in 2014, and that was only because the Red Sox had Dustin Pedroia at second. Betts was regarded as a strong defensive second baseman. He wasn't going to take Pedroia's job though, so he moved to the outfield.
In parts of five big league seasons Betts has played 15 games and 128 innings at second. Fourteen games and 122 innings of that came back in 2014. He played six innings at second base in August this year in an emergency. Kinsler left a game with a hamstring problem and the Red Sox were trying to avoid using Bogaerts, who was hit by a pitch a few days earlier, so Mookie played a few innings at second. Here is the necessary video:
Betts will likely work out at second base the next few days to get re-acclimated to the position and, once he gets his feet wet, I suspect he'll be more than fine at the position. Martinez will be in right field and chances are he will be removed for defense late in games in those NL parks anyway, so Betts may only play six or seven innings at second base each night before sliding back to right.
In the World Series, with everything on the line, you have to get your best players on the field. For the Red Sox that means Betts, Martinez, Bradley, and Benintendi. One of them can't sit in the NL park. Betts at second base is an obvious solution to that problem, and I don't think he'll have any trouble with the temporary position change at all.