With the Boston Red Sox hitting the road sans David Ortiz and on the heels of an offensive downturn that cost them a home series with Tampa Bay and their lead in the American League East, they’ll logically take any competent, passionate stand-in batter they can for good measure.
Between Double-A Portland and the PawSox this spring and summer, Ryan Lavarnway, on the whole, has proven to fit that job description. He and his mentors and employers alike are openly willing to risk swallowing big silver spoonfuls of strikeouts in exchange for those thrilling occasions when the catcher/DH bashes baseballs in bunches, spiking his own numbers and those of his team.
That having been said, leading up to Wednesday night’s buzz that he may now be getting his first taste of The Show, Lavarnway is hitting 5-for-44 with 13 strikeouts this month. That translates to a .114 batting average and a strikeout for 29.5 percent of his August at-bats.
In other words, when it comes to at least putting the ball in play, the Yale alumnus has been clinging to a C-minus over the last two-plus weeks with a 70.5 percent success rate.
All this coming after he had previously gone an otherworldly 58-for-163, amounting to a .356 average between his June promotion from Portland and the conclusion of July.
Granted, three of Larvarnway’s last four hits have been home runs, and he like the rest of the PawSox have been facing stingier pitching of late, especially from the Gwinnett Braves this past wraparound weekend. He has now belted a sound 16 dingers, sprinkling them out at a still-reasonably consistent rate over 54 games-played with the PawSox.
Then again, look at the data some of Pawtucket’s other leaned-on hitters put up while facing the ace-laden G-Braves staff.
Daniel Nava went 6-for-16 with a pair of dingers. Hector Luna was 9-for-14 on the weekend and one of three PawSox batters to get through the series without striking out once. Brett Carroll, who was himself mired in a brief slump not long ago, went 3-for-4 Monday night and 4-for-12 in the series.
Nate Spears, Lars Anderson, Jose Iglesias and Che-Hsuan Lin all mooched a cumulative three hits apiece against the International League’s team ERA leader.
In his last three games and 13 plate appearances, Lavarnway has reached base five times, but only once by way of a hit, that being a solo homer at Gwinnett Monday night.
That momentarily splashed his 0-for-17 drought dating back to the series finale in Charlotte last Thursday. But afterwards, he struck out twice to finish the series with six Ks in 18 at-bats.
During the three-game span in question, Lavarnway, who took Tuesday night’s series opener with the Clippers off, has also walked twice and capitalized on a pair opposing fielding errors.
During Sunday afternoon’s 5-0 win over the G-Braves, Lavarnway reached on an error by third baseman Wilkin Castillo in the first and drew a four-pitch pass to first base in the fourth. On Wednesday, he walked to load the bases in the first and reached first on Clippers third baseman Jared Goedert’s fielding error with nobody out in the third.
Is the “Lavarnwagon,” the term coined by one devout PawSox follower in July, ready to roll full steam to Fenway? It hardly looks like it at the very moment.
Assuming the current rumors are true, however long he is up for his first stint in Boston and however much action he sees, Lavarnway should not expect to make the same booming impact he did upon arrival at McCoy. Not at the rate he has been batting in the manner of a hangover after the June/July fiesta.
Witnesses from Red Sox Nation are advised to prepare not to judge based on first impression. Lavarnway can indubitably pave a radiant future with the Sox, but the moment at hand promises to be an intensely fiery baptism.