This is John Farrell’s third division title, most of any manager in Red Sox history, so building a roster with the sole purpose of winning a five-game series is familiar territory.
But the task has never been as complicated as it is right now.
Two bad knees in the infield. Uncertainty at the back of the rotation. Matchup options that might not fit. It all makes for a muddled mix of priorities and contingencies.
The Red Sox have until Thursday morning to submit a 25-man roster.
“There’s going to be some guys that are disappointed, plain and simple,” Farrell said. “Guys that have been contributors. We’ve got 35-36 players down there right now that have contributed in some way, and yet there’s going to be 11 that are not active. I wish they all could be.
“But I think guys get it. The tough decisions … I think there are different degrees of decisions when it comes to who’s active and who’s not, and those explanations are deserved to the individuals, and we’ll provide those.”
Three key factors to consider:
The viability of the infield
Perhaps the biggest wild card of the entire series is Eduardo Nunez, who was the Red Sox’ regular leadoff hitter before he sprained his right knee on Sept. 9. He’s played only once since then, and in that game, aggravated the injury in his second at-bat.
After a week of treatment and baseball drills, Nunez said he’s confident he’ll be ready to go in the postseason, but what does that mean exactly? Is he still the .892 OPS hitter he was before the injury? Is he more of a platoon and backup option? Can he still run? Can he reliably play the field, and if so, where does he fit?
“While everything points to Eduardo being on the roster, I don’t know exactly what his capacity is going to be,” Farrell said.
In theory, Nunez should be enough to give the Red Sox depth at second base, third base and shortstop, but his uncertainty, combined with Dustin Pedroia’s own knee issue — he’s started two days in a row only once in the past two weeks — likely creates the need for at least one more true utility infielder.
Brock Holt has been the go-to utility man down the stretch, but he’s been a .200 hitter this year. Deven Marrero’s elite defense might be more useful. Is it worth carrying both?
“The infield is going to need some coverage,” Farrell said.
The matchup potential
Unusual stat for the Astros: They have a robust .814 team OPS against lefties this season, but they have a losing…