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Red Sox Extras: A Good Pinch Hitter, A Bad Pinch Runner

Yesterday the Sox made two substitutions that had a chance to win or lose the game for them.

The first change came in the sixth after Adrian Gonzalez reached base on a single. He was quickly pulled for a pinch runner in Che-Hsuan Lin.

The second came in the ninth, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch-hitting for Marlon Byrd. He would, of course, hit a walkoff homer to turn a 2-1 loss into a 3-2 win. That one doesn't need much explanation. The only good hitter left on Boston's bench, Saltalamacchia was given a runner in scoring position between a Daniel Nava walk and one of the rare acceptable bunts in baseball (Kelly Shoppach wasn't going to do anything against Fernando Rodney, and the Sox could only avoid one of the two "sure outs" in Shoppach and Byrd, so they may as well give themselves two shots to tie it with a single), and did not waste his opportunity.

More questionable, however, was the pinch runner.

It's not hard to see where Bobby Valentine was coming from when he pulled Adrian Gonzalez. Anticipating a lead, Valentine wanted to get Gonzalez out of the dangerous right field, and added some speed on the basepaths as a kicker. The problem is that this sort of substitiution can put the Sox in something of a bind later on in the game.

After all, while the Sox would manage to take the lead in that inning, in the very next frame Josh Beckett would surrender two, and suddenly the lineup needed to score again to have any chance at winning the game. The problem is, one of the biggest spots in the lineup, coming after the Dustin Pedroia - David Ortiz - Kevin Youkilis group that's most likely to give the team a baserunner, was suddenly filled not by Adrian Gonzalez, but by the worst bat on the team.

It's nice to have Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup even with Youkilis, Middlebrooks, and Ortiz playing. But if the Sox are going to play it that way, then they have to commit. The loss of Gonzalez from the five-hole in exchange for the likes of Che-Hsuan Lin and Scott Podsednik is too massive a hit to take without a big, late lead. They either have to leave him in until the game is in hand, or save the odd-man out (be it Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz, or Middlebrooks) on the bench so they can make their one at-bat count with a key pinch hitting appearance.