NEW YORK — Miguel Andujar‘s bat has pushed him into the American League Rookie of the Year Award conversation, but as his Yankees face elimination in Tuesday’s Game 4 of the AL Division Series, the infielder will be watching at least the first few innings from the bench.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone shuffled his lineup as the Bombers try to push the series back to Boston, opting to sit Andujar in favor of having switch-hitter Neil Walker man third base behind starter CC Sabathia. Andrew McCutchen is also on the bench as Aaron Hicks returns to the lineup in center field, with Brett Gardner sliding to left field.
“I just wanted to get more lefty balance in the lineup tonight against [Red Sox starter Rick] Porcello,” Boone said. “I feel like it makes sense to have that. Walk has played a number of games over at third with CC on the mound, too. I just feel like it gives us a little more balance in a matchup that makes sense.”
Lefties compiled a .727 OPS against Porcello during the regular season, compared with a .672 OPS from the right side. Andujar, a right-handed hitter, has not shown a platoon split thus far in his MLB career, posting a .869 OPS against righties this year compared to .822 against lefties, but he is 1-for-9 in the ALDS thus far.
Though the Yankees have remained bullish on Andujar’s improving defense, Sabathia generates a substantial number of ground balls to the left side of the infield. As a result, Walker has started at third base in four consecutive Sabathia starts, and five of six.
“We like getting Walk in there, and on the day CC pitches, it makes a little sense to have him out there,” Boone said.
Gardner is starting his third consecutive game, having filled in twice while Hicks was recovering from a tight right hamstring. Boone said that he believed the call was close between Gardner and McCutchen in left field, ultimately opting for the left-handed bat.
“I just felt like it was a pretty good matchup, and again, having another lefty in there,” Boone said. “Cutch will come into play obviously later. I felt like it was a close matchup offensively against Porcello, and obviously what Gardy brings defensively.”