Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 10/27/13
The Boston Red Sox can be criticized for several decisions he made during Saturday's 5-4 loss in Game 3 of the World Series.  Manager John Farrell opted to pitch to the Cardinals' Jon Jay in the fateful ninth inning, rather than intentionally walk him to load the bases, pitch to the hitless Pete Kozma and set up a force play is notably one to question. Jarrod Saltamacchia's choice to throw to third base after recording an out at home plate is another. His errant throw pulled Will Middlebrooks off the bag, leading directly to the obstruction call that awarded St. Louis the game-winning run.  But another curious decision by Farrell is one that he and Red Sox fans could heavily scrutinize in the hours leading up to Sunday's Game 4, if not the entire offseason if Boston eventually loses this series. Where was Mike Napoli on Saturday? Why wasn't one of the most potent bats on Farrell's roster called off the bench to help the Red Sox score a crucial run?  Naturally, there are no guarantees that pinch-hitting Napoli in the fifth or eighth innings would have resulted in a run-scoring hit. However, it's better to have tried than to leave one of the team's best offensive weapons unused for a hypothetical late-inning situation that never developed.  Of course, Napoli was not in the Red Sox starting lineup in Game 3 because of National League rules being in play at Busch Stadium. With no designated hitter allowed either Napoli or David Ortiz had to sit down. As Boston's best hitter, power threat and run producer, Ortiz had to be in the lineup. So he played first base, pushing Napoli to the bench.  That gave the Red Sox an impact bat to deploy when they had a chance to score a run. Farrell had the luxury of choosing the ideal high-leverage situation during which to use Napoli.  One such scenario presented itself in the fifth inning. A Xander Bogaerts triple and Saltalamacchia walk gave Boston runners on first and third with no outs. The next batter was Stephen Drew, who had one hit with four strikeouts in his previous eight World Series at-bats. He came into Game 3 batting .095 with a .116 on-base percentage. Drew struck out for the second time in the game. The Red Sox did score a run when Mike Carp pinch-hit for pitcher Jake Peavy and drove in a run on a groundball. But did Boston squander an opportunity to score more?  Perhaps the fifth inning was too early to call on Napoli, especially because Drew's glove was needed in the field. But Farrell pinch-hit for Drew when his turn in the batting order next came up in the seventh, sending in Will Middlebrooks. If he felt Drew's glove was expendable in favor of offense then, with no runners on, why not two innings earlier when the Red Sox had runners in scoring position? Taking Drew out could be further questioned when Bogaerts made an errant throw from shortstop in the bottom of the seventh that Ortiz couldn't catch at first base. Drew likely would've made a surer throw and perhaps made the out at first base. Then there's also the fact that bringing in Middlebrooks put him in position to make the game-ending obstruction call on Allen Craig in the ninth.  But if Farrell was saving Napoli for later in the game, he had an opportunity to use him in the ninth with the score tied 4-4. The pitcher's spot in the lineup came up to bat, a natural pinch-hitting situation that late in the game. But Middlebrooks had already struck out to lead off the inning, leaving no runners on base. Farrell decided to let Brandon Workman in, presumably figuring that he might be needed to pitch if the game went to extra innings. Conventional wisdom also says a team shouldn't use its closer in a tie game on the road, which is likely why Farrell wanted to stick with Workman, rather than bring Koji Uehara in the game. Workman struck out. Not pinch-hitting for Workman seemed even more baffling when Farrell brought in Uehara after Yadier Molina singled with one out in the ninth. Granted, the game-winning run on base is a situation during which you want to use your closer and best reliever. But if Workman was on such a short leash to begin with, why not pinch-hit for him in the top half of the inning with someone who could possibly hit the ball out of the park and give Boston the lead?  With time to reflect after the game, Farrell acknowledged while talking to the media after the game.  "In hindsight, I probably should have double-switched after Salty made the final out the previous inning, with Workman coming in the game," Farrell said to reporters, including MLB.com's Ian Browne. "I felt like if we get into an extended situation, which that game was looking like it was going to — held Nap back in the event that spot came up again. Like I said, in hindsight, having Workman hit against [Cards closer Trevor] Rosenthal is a mismatch. I recognize it, but we needed more than one inning out of Workman."  Was more than one inning from Workman predicated on him not allowing any baserunners? Or did Farrell panic — and perhaps realize his mistake — once Workman gave up that single to Molina, and decide that he needed Uehara with the game now on the line?  Such questions could have been moot had Farrell pinch-hitting Napoli when the opportunity was available for the Red Sox to create some offense. A hitter that finished second among Red Sox hitters in home runs, RBI and OPS during the regular season — who's been Boston's second-best run producer in the postseason — was left unused. That's one of several decisions that Boston's manager could question himself over with his team down 2-1 in the World Series. But not using Napoli could have been the most costly choice, one he may agonize over if the Red Sox end up losing this series. 

This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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