10/10/09 7:53 PM ET
Francona keeping things light
Red Sox manager not planning on wholesale changes
By John Barone / MLB.com
One of their strong points during the regular season was a high-powered offense that ranked among the best in baseball. Unfortunately for Francona, that crew -- whose 872 runs topped all but two Major League teams -- has gone missing in action through two games of the American League Division Series against the Angels, which the Red Sox trail, 2-0.
With Francona's club perilously close to an early winter vacation, no one would blame the Boston manager if he decided to make wholesale lineup changes for Sunday's Game 3 at Fenway Park. Surely one run on eight hits over the course of two games is cause for some adjustments, right?
At a time of year when players evaluate their manager's demeanor more than ever, Francona is keeping things light -- and routine.
"We'll show up tomorrow and do what we always do for early games -- have 12 pieces of bacon, a Red Bull and go get 'em," Francona said.
The skipper plans to trot out the same group of hitters that was so overmatched in Games 1 and 2, hoping for a better outcome in Game 3.
Designated hitter David Ortiz will likely slide down in the batting order opposite Angels lefty Scott Kazmir, and with third baseman Mike Lowell reportedly feeling no ill effects after taking a line drive off his right hand in Game 2, Boston's lineup will have a familiar look on Sunday.
"We're going to stay with our guys," Francona said. "I hope coming back [to Fenway] does something. We can say everything we want, and whether it's a cliché, but the best thing for us to do is show up and win [Sunday]. That kind of simplifies things."
A source of comfort for the Red Sox is the shift back to their hitter-friendly ballpark, where they compiled an AL-best 481 runs and a .498 slugging percentage in 81 regular-season home games, 56 of which they won.
"We're really looking forward to it," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of returning to Fenway. "It's tough playing on the road, especially in Anaheim. They have great fans. The place gets loud. But Fenway is also really tough to play at for a visiting team. Hopefully our fans are extremely loud behind us and make it tough on those guys."
"First and foremost, [Fenway] is an intimidating place to play," left fielder Jason Bay said. "You come in here, the atmosphere, crowds, what have you. That gives us a little bit of an advantage. For us, it's kind of a comfort level. Guys are more comfortable, and you can feel it when we get here."
Though Sunday's 12:07 p.m. ET start time is less than ideal for a Boston team that spent the past week on the West Coast, such adversity doesn't figure to impact the Red Sox.
"Both teams are dealing with it," Bay said. "With the atmosphere, I really think it's going to be a non issue. Like I've said a lot of times, it's like the weather -- both teams are going through it. That's the position we're in. It's about winning games."
Right-hander Clay Buchholz, who makes his postseason debut on Sunday, is confident Boston's bats will awaken in time to provide him some offensive backing.
"All it takes is one guy to start swinging the bat and it sparks the whole team," Buchholz said. "But I can't think about what the guys at plate are going to do. I have to go out and do my job -- try to give this team six or seven quality innings and a chance to win."
Should they extend the series to a fourth game, the Red Sox will hand the ball to southpaw Jon Lester, who Francona said is on track for a Monday start at Fenway.
From the standpoint of the Red Sox, what happened -- or didn't happen -- in Anaheim on Thursday and Friday must stay in Anaheim. All they can bring back to Boston is their approach, one that has brought the team 95 victories thus far in 2009.
So when they take the field on Sunday, with their season hanging in the balance, the Red Sox will do so with the same faces that propelled them to the playoffs.
Francona wouldn't have it any other way.
"We just need to play as good a baseball as we can," Francona said. "All the things that we've done all year, try to be consistent with them. There's no magic button to push. You can't do too many crazy things, because it doesn't help you win. Rather than sit here and get philosophical, we'll just keep it simple and try to win. That's our best way to go about this, and that's what we'll try to do."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.