Why did Drew face lefty McGee in 8th?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Why bat Stephen Drew against left-handed reliever Jake McGee with two on and two out in the eighth last night when the right-handed hitting Xander Bogaerts is on the bench?

Drew had hits in each of the first two games of the series against Rays left-handers: an RBI infield single off Matt Moore in Game 1, an RBI triple off Rays ace David Price in Game 2. Manager John Farrell has consistently stated that Drew has had better at-bats against lefties in the season’s second half, but he went hitless in his first 14 at-bats against lefties in September until he singled off Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen on Sept. 18. He had 4 hits in 12 at-bats against lefties the rest of the way: two ground-ball singles off Toronto’s Mark Buehrle, a ground-ball single off Baltimore’s Zach Britton, a double off Chen in his last regular-season at-bat against a lefty.

But against left-handed relievers this season, Drew is just 1 for 32, the one hit a home run off Texas lefty Joe Ortiz in a 17-5 blowout at Fenway Park on June 5. In his career, he was 0 for 5 against McGee.

Bogaerts, Boston’s most highly regarded prospect in years, hasn’t had an at-bat in a week, and just 10 plate appearances since Sept. 21, going 1 for 9 with a walk. But since his callup, he has fared well against lefties, batting .467 (7 for 15) with three walks.

Farrell was asked Monday night whether he had “wrestled” with the decision of batting Bogaerts for Drew.

“McGee has been dominant against right handed hitters,’’ he said. “He's almost a right-handed reliever in some ways because of the strong reverse splits he has. Stephen is a good fastball hitter. We know McGee is going to come at us with 95 percent fastballs, if not more. There was no hesitation to leave Stephen at the plate.’’

McGee has been better against righties than lefties, but not dramatically so: .217 vs. righties, .235 vs. lefties this season, .199 vs. righties, .225 vs. lefties. He’s obviously a handful, regardless of what side of the plate you hit from.

McGee threw six straight fastballs to Drew, who took the first pitch for a strike and swung and missed at the second. Brooksbaseball.net had his average velocity at 99.1 miles an hour; MLB.com’s game-tracker had him topping out at 98 against Drew.

The third pitch was a ball. Drew fouled off the next two, then popped out to third baseman Evan Longoria in foul territory to end the inning.