|Justin Morneau -- in younger years|
After starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez left with an injury in the second inning, there was reason to believe this game could get out of hand. It did not, because relievers Michael Ynoa, Carson Fulmer and Tommy Kahnle combined to pitch seven innings of two-run ball.
Ynoa was particularly impressive. He worked three scoreless innings. He struck out three and did not allow a hit.
Too bad the Sox could muster only one run against Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched his first complete game in 97 career starts.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised given that the Sox fielded this weak lineup:
1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Melky Cabrera, LF
4. Jose Abreu, DH
5. Todd Frazier, 1B
6. Dioner Navarro, C
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Carlos Sanchez, 2B
9. Jason Coats, RF
Noticeable by his absence is Justin Morneau, who has turned out to be a nice addition for the Sox. The veteran is hitting .289/.337/.474 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games and 83 plate appearances since his return from the disabled list.
It's a small sample size, but that .811 OPS is better than anybody else on this team.
Given the fact that Morneau has been productive, why is manager Robin Ventura using him as a platoon player? Sure, Duffy is left-handed, and Morneau is left-handed, but what baseball universe are we living in where the light-hitting Sanchez gives the Sox a better chance to win against a pitcher such as Duffy?
Morneau has been allowed only 12 at-bats against left-handed pitching thus far, but he has four hits, including a double and a home run. For his career, he has a slash line of .253/.298/.411 against lefties. That's not world-beating, but it's respectable, and while that .710 OPS pales in comparison to his .891 career OPS against righties, Morneau is a threat every time he steps in the batter's box against either right-handers or left-handers. That's more than we can say for about half the guys listed in the lineup above.
I had one person tell me that Ventura made the right move by sitting Morneau on Thursday, because the Sox are out of the race and they need to "play the kids."
I could buy that explanation if I actually thought that was what Ventura was doing. But this is a manager who is playing J.B. Shuck over Coats. He's playing Navarro over Omar Narvaez. He's using Matt Albers in high-leverage relief situations instead of Ynoa or Fulmer.
He's not "playing the kids." He's still trying to win games with his veterans. If that's the philosophy he's taking, he needs Morneau to be the DH regardless of who is on the mound. The lineup the Sox trotted out Thursday against Duffy isn't going to cut it.