BOSTON -- Daniel Nava singled in his first at-bat Wednesday to continue an impressive streak, having reached base safely in 39 consecutive starts. As a starting player, it's the longest active streak in the Majors, third longest of the season and second longest in Red Sox history.
Nava said the streak has meant nothing to him, but it's highlighted a player who has crafted one of the more unique careers in Major League Baseball. Beyond his journey to get here, his statistics alone are worth marveling over.
Simply put, players like Nava rarely existed in the Majors when Nava was just a boy, watching players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds smack 50-plus homers a year.
Would Nava's skill set have been appreciated in the 1990s?
"No, not at all," Nava said. "That was a different game. Everyone was throwing 97 [mph] and hitting 30 [homers]. It was a different game, so I'm sure it probably wouldn't have been as much as part of the game as it was now."
Through his three-year career in the Majors, Nava has posted 162-game averages of 11 homers, a .269 batting average and .368 on-base percentage.
From 1990-99, there were 196 instances in which a player posted an average as low as Nava's with 11 home runs or less in a qualified season. Only in nine of those seasons (three were by Ricky Henderson) did the player post an on-base percentage as impressive as Nava's .368 mark. And there were just two seasons, one by Henderson and one by former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, in which Nava's OPS of .776 was reached.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said he thinks Nava's versatility, batting average and defense would have made him an appreciated player in the 1990s, too. But if home runs weren't being hit at a rapid rate or batting averages weren't approaching .300, players rarely made their way into lineups then.
The appreciation of stats like on-base percentage, OPS and wins above replacement have given players like Nava a chance to prove themselves worthy.
"It is funny to think about," Nava said. "Just getting on base to hopefully turn the lineup over is definitely what I'm trying to do. I really don't care how it happens.
"Getting on base, I think the Red Sox do a good job of preaching, 'We're not about hitting .350. We're about getting on base, because it's about turning the lineup over to give us a better chance of scoring. Better chance of scoring, better chance of winning.'
"They always emphasized a 'quality at-bat.' I didn't know that, per say, I was having a 'quality at-bat' until they described what a 'quality at-bat' is, and I was like, 'Oh, OK, that's what you're looking for?' So fortunately the type of at-bat which I had was the type of at-bat that they said they were looking for."
Would another organization appreciate Nava the way the Red Sox do?
"Who knows?" he said. "I'm not sure, but I'm glad I'm in this one."
Lacking setup man, Farrell gets creative with bullpen
BOSTON -- Only two bullpens in the Majors have allowed inherited runners to score more often than the Red Sox, who have allowed a staggering 34 percent to cross home plate, the runs getting charged to the previous pitchers' ERA.
While Koji Uehara has been a force in the ninth inning since taking over, the Red Sox have been without a true setup man. On Tuesday night, manager John Farrell really had to get creative, using three pitchers, each recording one out, in the eighth inning as a bridge to Uehara, who hasn't allowed a run in 25 consecutive innings.
Right-hander Brandon Workman, left-hander Craig Breslow and right-hander Junichi Tazawa combined to shut down the Tigers' heart of the order and the Red Sox won, 2-1.
Farrell doesn't love the idea of using three pitchers in one inning, especially considering relievers tend to appreciate more defined roles, but he said he gave them fair warning.
"We did call down at the beginning of the inning and basically outlined what we were going to do," Farrell said. "The fact that they were brought in for individual hitters was not a surprise. It was laid out so they could anticipate what their role was going to be at that moment.
"If we weren't in that part of the order, we probably would have gone with one guy to go through the eighth inning. It just so happened that the situation called for the matchups."
While Farrell should garner plenty of consideration for Manager of the Year Award voting, his bullpen management has been unpredictable. He's used 26 pitchers, tied for sixth most in the Majors, though that's largely due to the number of injuries the Red Sox have experienced in the bullpen.
The emergence of Workman as a reliable right-hander in high-leverage situations has been encouraging for the Red Sox, who have also shown faith in Breslow but have expressed concern over Tazawa's diminishing effectiveness of late.
Workman, who retired Miguel Cabrera with the game on the line Tuesday, could continue to pitch in late-and-close situations.
"Through his performance, he's gained a lot of trust in us," Farrell said. "And we felt like in this situation, his strike-throwing capability, good mound presence, didn't show any fear or intimidation in situations that he's been in either as a starter or reliever with us.
"Last night was probably the highest leverage situation he's been brought into. As he's done with other opportunities, he handled it well."
Red Sox not surprised Cubs claim Bard
BOSTON -- Daniel Bard is no longer with the Red Sox, and manager John Farrell wasn't surprised to see which team nabbed Bard off waivers.
Once the best setup man in baseball and the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth-inning role, Bard was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Sunday when they needed space on the 40-man roster. On Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs, whose president Theo Epstein was Boston's general manager when Bard was selected in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, claimed him.
"Not surprised that the Cubs would claim him given the familiarity with Theo and [general manager Jed Hoyer], who drafted him here," Farrell said. "I guess the most important thing is that we wish him well. We hope he gets back on track. There's still a good pitcher in there once he gets back on track."
Epstein was out of Boston before the Red Sox announced their decision to transition Bard into the starting rotation prior to the 2012 season. The results were tragic: Bard posted a 6.22 ERA, saw his walk rate more than double and was eventually sent to the Minor Leagues, where success has since evaded him.
In 15 1/3 Minor League innings in 2013, Bard walked 27 batters and struck out nine.
Only 28, the Cubs have taken an interest in other pitchers full of talent but lacking in results. Bard could be a good fit for the Cubs, though Farrell warned that it might take some time before they see any results.
"There's still a player and a pitcher there that's motivated, and yet anytime that there's activity disrupted by an injury, that's going to slow that process," Farrell said. "Time was of the essence with us. We needed the roster space. But based on what we saw over the last couple of years, it needs to be built back gradually. How long that takes is the unknown in this."
Lavarnway's double changed to home run
BOSTON -- Ryan Lavarnway's first Fenway Park home run was almost mistakenly ruled a double. He's thankful for the replay review process.
Lavarnway smoked a line drive to the top of the Green Monster in the seventh inning during the Red Sox's 20-4 win over the Tigers on Wednesday, but the ball bounced off the wall and back onto the field, prompting third-base umpire Paul Schrieber to rule it a double.
Before manager John Farrell could reach the crew to argue, they had left the field for review.
Crew chief Jeff Kellogg came out shortly and ruled it a homer.
"I was just rounding first, but it looked like it bounced up in the air on the way back. It didn't look like it hit right off the wall in play," Lavarnway said, "so I had a pretty good idea it was out."
The home run was the Red Sox's sixth of the game, marking the first time since 2011 the Red Sox hit six homers at Fenway Park. By the end of the eighth inning, Boston had hit eight home runs in a game for the second time in team history.
• Clay Buchholz's wife, Lindsay, gave birth to the couple's second daughter on Wednesday. Buchholz is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket in Rochester, N.Y., in Thursday's playoff game.
"Anything regarding the rotation, we'll probably hold off any type of announcement until he gets through tomorrow," Farrell said.
• Wednesday starter Ryan Dempster could move to the bullpen following Buchholz's return, though nothing has been announced. While Dempster hasn't posted ERAs as low as other members of the Red Sox's starting rotation, he has provided reliability for a staff that was desperate for quality starts at the tail end of the 2011 season.
"He has been the pitcher we thought we were signing over the offseason," Farrell said. "The fact that he's gone deep into the game, you're not forced to pitch four to six innings on a given night. There's a lot of value in that. Innings by a starting rotation are worth their weight in gold."
• Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the lineup Wednesday after a day off to rest his sore left hand.
"He needed that one day to let some of the swelling subside somewhat," Farrell said. "We don't expect him to be completely over it. This is something he's going to manage, and he's doing just that."
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia's sore back showed improvement Wednesday, Farrell said, but he was held out again Wednesday and will miss at least Thursday's game against the Yankees.
• Red Sox pitchers lead the Majors in ERA with a 2.31 mark since Aug. 19. Farrell said there are no signs of fatigue, either.