Rutledge draws praise for play at third base

Rutledge draws praise for play at third base

HOUSTON -- Given the Astros' high probability of putting balls in play and shooting bouncing hits through the infield, the Red Sox are in a better defensive position with Josh Rutledge at third base, manager John Farrell said.

Rutledge, who has started the first two games of Boston's three-game series in Houston, dealt with a handful of grounders hopping his way on the corner during the Red Sox's 2-1 win on Friday, while Pablo Sandoval did not play.

So given the Astros' offensive tendencies and performance on Friday, Rutledge's ability to shift and be an agile wall down third-base line is what Boston prefers, Farrell said.

"There's greater range," Farrell said. "This is a team that puts a lot of balls in play. As it played out last night, four or five of what you kind of envisioned taking place -- balls that were chopped and the potential for infield base hits.

"[Rutledge] has really executed well defensively. Whether it's a charging play, whether it's a barehand play, whether it's a turn of a double play to his glove side, he's handling the position well defensively."

Similarly, along with playing on Minute Maid Park's sleek surface, the Astros entered Saturday with the third fewest strikeouts in baseball as a team with 465. 

"We feel like the increased range is needed against this club in particular and in particular on this surface," Farrell said.

Entering Saturday, Rutledge is 6-for-14 with four runs, three doubles and an RBI in five career games against the Astros.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. He covered the Red Sox on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.