DETROIT -- While third baseman Will Middlebrooks was the player Red Sox manager John Farrell chose to sit in Thursday's Game 5 of the ALCS, Middlebrooks is hardly alone among Sox players who have struggled to hit Tigers pitching.
The Sox had a total of 12 hits in the first three games before putting up another dozen in their 7-3 loss in Game 4. The team was batting .133 after three games, the worst-ever average after three games in an ALCS (coincidentally, just a percentage point lower than the Cardinals hit in the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers).
The team average is still .186 going into Game 5. David Ortiz's one hit in 15 at-bats was a huge one, the game-tying grand slam in Game 2, but he has been neutralized otherwise. Stephen Drew is 1-for-13, Shane Victorino 2-for-16, and Dustin Pedroia is 3-for-14 (.214) with three walks.
Asked about Pedroia on Thursday, Farrell said: "He wants to do a lot right now. That's who he is as a player. Maybe overdoing it at times."
Farrell offered a fresh perspective on Pedroia's inability to turn a double play in the second inning on a hard smash by Jose Iglesias, which ended up critical to the Tigers' four-run inning.
"In talking with [Pedroia] today, there was a thought Iglesias might look to push bunt, with a first-and-third, one-out situation," Farrell said. "[Instead], he squares a ball up. The way that ball came up, it was almost like a stone skimming off some water. It was a different hop. He's trying to guard against the charge, if he sees the [bunt attempt]. He squared the ball up. Not a timely [moment] to be handcuffed."
Farrell said he had given no thought to moving Pedroia out of the No. 3 spot in the Sox order.
The Sox did not have a hit in six innings against Anibal Sanchez in Saturday night's 1-0 loss to the Tigers. Sanchez struck out 12, but also walked six and departed after throwing 116 pitches. Will seeing him a second time help?
"Somewhat," he said. "If the question was posed before Game 1 -- 'If Sanchez leaves after six innings and 116 pitches, what would you think?' -- I'd think we'd be in a pretty good place. That's no guarantee that will happen tonight, but we've seen him for six innings. He got the strikeouts in key spots, but we also built opportunities within the time he was on the mound.
"Obviously the hit was elusive until the ninth, but I liked the way we swung the bat last night, and hopefully we get a combination of the two."
Jonny Gomes drew another start in left field against a right-hander, his third of the series. The Sox have won the two games he started previously. A factor in starting him Thursday?
"Well if it means we're 3-0 with him in the lineup, I'll be better able to answer that question for you," he said. "Even against very difficult right-handers, he's put up good at-bats, and it shouldn't be seen as a slight to Daniel [Nava] in any way. Just feel like we present differently when he's in the lineup, as opposed to coming off the bench."