MINNEAPOLIS -- John Farrell and Torey Lovullo looked down toward the Twins bullpen. They saw some stirring, as Minnesota lefty reliever Brian Duensing had grabbed a ball and tossed it a few times.
Then Duensing sat down. It was then the Red Sox manager and his bench coach knew they had put the right people in the right places.
"It's a good feeling," Lovullo said after the Red Sox' 12-5 win over the Twins Saturday night, "when all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly."
The puzzle Lovullo referenced was the Red Sox batting order, a collection of names that was initially crafted five days earlier, and not finalized until 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
As similar as each of Farrell's lineups may seem, each day and each order has a life of its own. Every single position in the lineup has more of a purpose than most would understand, as is evidenced by meticulous process the manager and his coaches undergo when piecing the names together.
Saturday's version was no different.
Duensing was symbolic of how specific Farrell and his crew get in looking at their lineup. The Red Sox braintrust entered the day banking on the Twins lefty not being available for more than one batter, two at the most. He had thrown 17 pitches the night before, while pitching in three of Minnesota's previous four games.
The only other left-hander the Twins carried in the bullpen, Glen Perkins, serves as Minnesota's closer and surely wouldn't be used in a situational capacity. So if Farrell put Daniel Nava in the six-hole, two spots after lefty slugger David Ortiz and just after righty Mike Napoli, the Sox likely would be able to have their switch-hitting outfielder hit from his strong side (lefty) once Minnesota's bullpen entered into the equation.
Against righties Nava is hitting .319 with a .947 OPS, numbers that were most recently buoyed by Saturday's lineup construction. Sure enough, after the outfielder weathered hitting right-handed his first two at-bats against Minnesota lefty starter Scott Diamond (hitting into a double play and flying out), the middle innings gave way to the righty-heavy Twins bullpen and plenty of left-handed at-bats for Nava.
In the fifth, he plated the Red Sox' sixth run with a sacrifice fly against righty reliever Anthony Swarzak, before finishing his day with a two-run homer and ninth-inning single.
It was all just one part of the blueprint, one, as it turns out, that was seemingly well-constructed.
"Might have been our best offensive night of the year," Farrell said after the win.
Part performance. Part plan.
The intention heading into Saturday was to give Jacoby Ellsbury his first off-day of the season. The leadoff man's struggles had been a topic of conversation, one that hadn't died down heading into the series' second game.
Farrell had been with the Red Sox when then-manager Terry Francona replaced Ellsbury at the top of the lineup at the conclusion of May 2009, leading to the outfielder's resurgence that had him back atop the batting order after the All-Star break. But when analyzing the situation heading into Saturday, the current Red Sox manager was choosing to execute another Francona staple -- patience.
"We have to get him going, bottom line," Farrell said. "There's a human behind every name, and there's a psyche you have to work with. That's where stability and continuity has a purpose and a place."
This time, however, Farrell had identified Saturday as a perfect time for Ellsbury to take a step back. Victorino would be hitting leadoff and playing center field if his back was healthy enough for a return. But it wasn't, so Ellsbury remained (singling in the first at-bat of the game).
If Victorino had been healthy, there might have been another new twist to the Red Sox lineup: There was a possibility Dustin Pedroia would be pushed up to the lineup's No. 2 spot for the first time this season.
Farrell's original plan in spring training was to use Pedroia in the two-hole against right-handers, with Victorino moved down in the order. But the switch-hitting right fielder impressed so much in his ability to perform against all pitchers he found a permanent home in the No. 2 spot. "He can bunt and do so many different things," Farrell said of Victorino.
And while there are still some who believe Pedroia's best spot is hitting second, Farrell looks at it this way: "So many people think he's a prototypical No. 2 guy, but … talk to any sabermetrician and they will say the batting order means nothing. Just have the best players on the field more often than not. Then you secondarily go to matchups and alternating guys. Just get the best guys on the field and get them to the plate as many times as you can. Getting on base is the lead-in to scoring runs, so the more opportunities."
So this time around, with Victorino still out, Farrell chose to bump up Jonny Gomes to the second spot against the lefty starter, leaving Pedroia at No. 3. (Gomes entered the game hitting .294 with a .478 on-base percentage and .949 OPS hitting second.)
The dynamic of David Ortiz in front of Mike Napoli isn't going change anytime soon. Farrell embraces the righty-lefty complement, leading into the set-up for the rest of the batting order.
That grouping was always in the works, whether it was at three-four or four-five. Where the plan has changed has come immediately after the pair of power hitters.
Heading into the season, the thinking was that Will Middlebrooks would be entrenched behind Napoli. But when the third baseman struggled, it led Farrell to adjust. And it wasn't just any spot he was tinkering with. It was No. 6.
"Personally, I think one of the most important spots in the lineup is the six-hole," the manager said. "A higher average, more of a line-drive type, good consistent professional at-bats is one of the thing I look for because I think that spot comes up a lot with men on base. They might be pitching around that three-, four-, five-hole and you have that guy laying there looking to put up a quality at-bat and I think there are a lot of RBI situations to be had."
Another part of the equation that Farrell factors in is the type of hitters he wants protecting, and protected. For every hitter who might have more of a propensity for experiencing shorter at-bats, there is an importance for a grinder -- like Nava and Stephen Drew -- to reside before and after as to limit the quick innings.
"I'm trying to avoid that nine-pitch inning," Farrell said. "That's where Nava comes into play."
Farrell was thrown a curveball Saturday, discovering Drew wouldn't be able to go due to a back ailment. The shortstop was supposed to be hitting eighth, after Middlebrooks, allowing for the likelihood of a tougher road for pitchers entering the bottom of the Sox lineup.
But at 2:30 p.m., after Drew experienced discomfort while hitting and throwing, the plan that been born in St. Petersburg, Fla., was being thrown for a loop. (Farrell typically texts injured players both after games and the next morning to keep track of their status.)
One part of the equation that hadn't changed was the presence of Ryan Lavarnway. And now, with the catcher showing a propensity for taking pitches, the fit seemed even more logical with the need for a No. 8 hitter with a similar approach to Drew.
"The thought started probably five days ago because knowing the stretch of games that was coming up, knowing the matchups were coming," Farrell said. "You kind of go in with a Plan A and then you adjust based on availability. But I knew five days ago Lavarnway would be catching tonight."
The rest of the improvisation worked.
The Red Sox finished the night going 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position, while taking 4.11 pitches per plate appearance. And, of course, it didn't hurt that Ortiz hit a pair of home runs to go along with six RBI.
This time it clicked. The preparation paid off.
"There is a strategy that goes with it," Farrell explained. On Saturday, the Red Sox won that batting order chess match.