The Red Sox have scored a grand total of six runs over their last 24 innings since returning from the All-Star break, and those offensive struggles have prompted manager Alex Cora to shake up his lineup ahead of a three-game series against the Blue Jays in Buffalo that begins on Monday night.
While Kiké Hernández will remain in the leadoff spot for Monday’s series opener, Jarren Duran has been bumped up to the No. 2 spot, resulting in Alex Verdugo dropping down to sixth in the order.
Verdugo, who has hit second in all 82 of his previous starts this season, has cooled off at the plate as of late. The 25-year-old outfielder comes into play Monday sporting an unsightly .218/.315/.269 slash line to go along with just four extra-base hits (all doubles) over his last 20 games (89 plate appearances) dating back to June 22).
Duran, meanwhile, has batted sixth and seventh in his first two starts with the Red Sox after getting called up from Triple-A Worcester on Friday. The speedy outfield prospect hit leadoff 44 times and and third two times for the WooSox, but never hit out of the two-hole.
With the lineup maneuvering that essentially sees Duran and Verdugo switch places, the most dangerous part of Boston’s order has shifted as well, with Xander Bogaerts batting third, Rafael Devers batting cleanup, and J.D. Martinez batting fifth.
Bogaerts will hit out of the three-hole for just the eighth time this season, as he has primarily been used by Cora out of the cleanup spot. In his previous seven starts as the Sox’ No. 3 hitter, the 28-year-0ld went 7-for-25 (.280) at the plate with one double, three RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and six strikeouts.
Devers will bat cleanup for just the 12th time this season, as he has primarily been used as the Red Sox’ No. 5 hitter behind Martinez and Bogaerts. The 24-year-old has batted .286/.362/.452 as Boston’s cleanup hitter so far in 2021.
Martinez will bat fifth for the very first time this season after the vast majority of his plate appearances to this point in the season have come as the Sox’ cleanup hitter.
With Duran in center and Martinez serving as designated hitter, Verdugo — batting sixth — will get the start in left field, while Hunter Renfroe — batting seventh — will get the start in right field.
Danny Santana, who is expected to be activated from the 10-day injured list on Monday after missing nearly two weeks with a left quadriceps strain, is slated to hit seventh and start at first base.
Kevin Plawecki will round out the Red Sox lineup, as he gets the start behind the plate in place of a banged-up Christian Vazquez. He will be catching right-hander Nick Pivetta, who will be making his 19th start of the season for Boston.
The Blue Jays, in turn, will send fellow righty Ross Stripling to the mound for Monday’s series-opening contest at Sahlen Field.
Stripling, 31, has surrendered 10 earned runs on 13 hits (four home runs), two walks, and nine strikeouts in his previous two starts against the Red Sox this season, though this will be his first against them in Buffalo.
First pitch between the Red Sox (56-38) and Blue Jays (48-42) Monday is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Boston is looking to halt a two-game losing streak.
(Picture of Alex Cora: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)