ST. PETERSBURG -- In the past, Joe Maddon has been known to trot out interesting lineups that bucked conventional wisdom, like having his switch-hitters hit right-handed against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield or starting a mostly right-handed lineup against Toronto right-hander Shaun Marcum.
Each time, the hunch has paid off. So expecting the Rays manager to have a doozey in store for Cliff Lee in Game 5 was almost the expected.
Instead, Maddon will go with a fairly conventional lineup against the Rangers left-hander: Jason Bartlett, SS; Ben Zobrist, RF; Carl Crawford, LF; Evan Longoria, 3B; Carlos Pena, 1B; B.J. Upton, CF; Dan Johnson, DH; Kelly Shoppach, C; Sean Rodriguez, 2B, and, of course, David Price as the starting pitcher.
"Primarily, it's about Upton, Zobrist and Johnson, I guess," Maddon said. "I like B.J. behind Carlos. I think that sets up Carlos a little bit better -- if you break down Cliff Lee, the kind of pitcher he is, what he can do to a right-handed hitter versus what he can do to a left-hander.
"Now, this is just probably a strong hunch here that I like [Johnson] on him, as opposed to the ball cutting in on [switch-hitting Willy Aybar]. That's primarily what it comes down to. [Johnson] has shown a pretty good ability to hit left-handers, especially recently. ... It was about protecting Pena. And I like Johnson over Aybar versus this guy today."
In addition, Maddon likes the idea of having a switch-hitter like Aybar available on the bench.
"Having a switch-hitter -- if they have somebody warming up in the bullpen it doesn't matter if he's right or left-handed, if you need to make a move," Maddon said. "So they're trying to match up on a righty for you and there's a left-hander in the game, and you bring a right-hander in to hit. All of a sudden, a righty comes out of the bullpen, and you're kind of messed up. But [I like] having Willy being able to do that and feeling confident from both sides. He's actually swinging the bat well from the left side right now, too."
Maddon also pointed out that Johnson has a higher batting average against left-handers (.235) than against right-handers (.191) and that all but one of Johnson's seven home runs have come against right-handers.
"He's got one against a lefty," Maddon said. "Again, it's not just any lefty; it's this lefty. Like, if it was [C.J.] Wilson, no, we wouldn't do it. But, no, it's this lefty, and that's what permits us to do it."
Maddon also gave a lot of thought to starting John Jaso at catcher rather than Shoppach.
"I gave thought to it, I did," said Maddon. "But just breaking it down, going into this game, the primary thought was knowing that [Price] and Shop have been kind of working on this getting together. It's not like [Shoppach is] his personal catcher. Just that they've known a couple of days in advance that, if it came to this, Shop would be catching him. So I did not want to just pull a last-minute switch on a catcher-pitcher relationship. More than anything, it came down to that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.