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Verdugo's play 'as good as you can make'

@IanMBrowne
August 30, 2020

BOSTON -- As Alex Verdugo raced to cut Trea Turner’s latest laser beam off in the gap in left-center, the Nationals figured they were about to score a run that would slim their deficit to one in the fifth inning. But Verdugo, even after going full steam to cut the

BOSTON -- As Alex Verdugo raced to cut Trea Turner’s latest laser beam off in the gap in left-center, the Nationals figured they were about to score a run that would slim their deficit to one in the fifth inning.

But Verdugo, even after going full steam to cut the ball off, was able to throw a one-hop rocket to the plate, and Kurt Suzuki was nabbed in his pursuit to score from second.

It was the latest highlight-reel throw from Verdugo in the outfield, and it fueled the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory over the defending-champion Nationals on Saturday night at Fenway Park.

Box score

According to Statcast, Verdugo covered 51 feet to make the play, which makes his 89.3 mph throw more impressive.

“I’ve talked to him about throwing some and trying to be more aggressive in his throws,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “Just being a [former] third-base coach, it means a lot how you look at things and how guys go about it. That’s as good a play as you can make. To go over that far and to get that ball like he did, and to still be under enough control to get something on it, one-hop it home, you’re not going to see too many plays better than that.”

Verdugo extended his MLB-leading assist total for outfielders to seven. Displaying his usual enthusiasm, he playfully patted his left biceps as he ran back to the dugout.

“It does help that I’m a lefty, too, with that specific play,” Verdugo said. “It was my glove side, so all I had to do was kind of backhand it, and I just had to make sure I worked one shuffle, kind of forward, towards the plate.

“I had a good understanding of where I was on the field, and from there, it’s just stop my momentum and try to make a shuffle and get rid of it as quick as I can.”

It was an interesting decision by the Nationals to send the slow-footed Suzuki because the ever-dangerous Juan Soto would have come up next with a chance to give his team the lead.

“That’s tough, but I think [third-base coach] Chip [Hale] had the right intent,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “The left fielder -- when you go laterally away from home plate, you typically send the guy. I watched Suzuki, too. Suzuki had a great jump. So when he went left, I was with Chip. I thought he should send him right there. [Verdugo] made a good throw. He put it right on the base. If the throw’s up the line or something like that, he scores. But he put it right on home plate."

Verdugo has made a habit of doing that this season. A former high school pitcher, few things give Verdugo more joy than airing it out with his left arm.

“The main thing for me is just try to keep my throws low and try to blow up the cutoff man and throw it right through his chest,” Verdugo said. “Sometimes they cut it, sometimes it goes through and you get them.”

Turner, who put on a show at Fenway by going 5-for-5, was sure he was going to get an RBI on that shot into left-center. But Verdugo stunned him also.

"I thought it was unbelievable,” Turner said. “I thought Kurt was going to be safe by a mile, but he made an unbelievable throw and really got behind it and put a lot on it and put it right on the money. So you’ve got to tip your cap when somebody makes kind of a SportsCenter play."

Early on, the Red Sox bats had their fun against Aníbal Sánchez. Xander Bogaerts hit a three-run homer in the first that soared over the Monster in left-center at a Statcast-projected 440 feet. It was the third-longest homer for Bogaerts since 2015.

Kevin Pillar, who had already mashed a triple earlier in the contest, unleashed a solo shot that went over everything in left in the fourth. That one had a projected distance of 435 feet.

The Red Sox didn’t score the rest of the night. Thanks in large part to Verdugo, they didn’t need to.

“Any little play helps,” Verdugo said. “Like throwing out a runner. It makes it, instead of a one-run ballgame, now we have two and we go into that top of the ninth and just makes it a little bit easier, a little less stressful to have that extra run.”

Best of the bullpen
From a bullpen standpoint, the Red Sox couldn't have asked for a better performance Saturday.

After a shaky start by Chris Mazza, who had an early 4-0 lead and gave most of it back, Roenicke deployed six relievers to get the final 20 outs. They didn’t give up any runs.

Here was the breakdown by outs: Darwinzon Hernandez (two), Phillips Valdez (five), Austin Brice (four), Josh Osich (three), Ryan Brasier (three), Matt Barnes (three).

“It felt like a playoff game when you’re doing everything you can to try to win a game, so taking trips out there with two outs and it seemed like a lot of innings, but hey, the guys did a good job,” Roenicke said. “They kept throwing up zeros, and some guys came in and got some big outs for us, so that was good, but boy, it was a hard-fought win, that’s for sure.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.