After 200-mile bus ride, Araúz hits 'huge' HR

August 28th, 2021

As he slept the morning and early afternoon away in a Buffalo hotel room on Friday, ’s worst baseball nightmare probably would have been failing to get a bunt down when his team needed it most.

His best dream might have been smashing a home run to lead his team to victory.

By the time the reality of his crazy Friday was finished, Araúz experienced both scenarios in the same at-bat and produced the biggest hit of his young career -- a three-run shot to right that led the Red Sox to a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Indians on Friday night at Progressive Field.

What a hectic day it was for Araúz and the Red Sox.

When Kiké Hernández tested positive for COVID-19 and Christian Arroyo was identified as a close contact, the Red Sox needed reinforcements in the infield, and they needed them fast.

Fortunately, the Worcester Red Sox were in Buffalo and not further away. But time was still of the essence.

Araúz and Yairo Muñoz got the call around 1 p.m. ET that they needed to pack up as quickly as possible and get on a 200-mile bus ride from Buffalo to Cleveland that would take a minimum of three hours.

“I was actually sleeping in the hotel when they called,” Araúz said through interpreter Rey Fuentes. “They called at around one just to let me know I had to get up in a hurry and get luggage real quick and get to the stadium as fast as possible, get on that bus to get over here. Yeah, everything happened really quick.”

According to manager Alex Cora, the two players were at Progressive Field at “5, 5:30” for the 7:10 p.m. game against the Indians.

Through seven innings, it didn’t seem like the hustle of two players to get from Triple-A to the Majors was going to be enough to get the Red Sox a win in the opener of a seven-game road trip. In fact, Boston had just one hit through the first seven innings.

When Araúz strode to the plate in the eighth, there was finally some promise. A walk by Christian Vázquez and a single by Jarren Duran had set up first and second with nobody out.

Cora called for the bunt, but Araúz failed twice to get one down against Indians righty James Karinchak. With the count 1-2, Araúz got mad.

“I was actually upset at myself during the first couple of pitches. I didn’t get the bunt down,” Araúz said. “I just took some time to myself and kind of kept my head up and said, ‘OK, if I didn’t get the bunt down, I have to move him over somehow, move the runners, get good contact, I’ve got to do something and make up for missing a bunt.”’

It’s doubtful that Araúz was bold enough to be thinking of hitting a home run there. In his previous 114 plate appearances in the Major Leagues, the switch-hitter had left the yard just once. He only had 30 homers in 1,890 Minor League plate appearances.

But perhaps this was just a fitting way for the day to go. Araúz belted a high inside strike and mashed it over the wall in right, setting off a jolt of excitement in the Boston dugout.

“That was a very short, compact swing, and he was on time,” said Cora. “It was a cool game, a fun game to manage with what we have, to be around the guys and grind together.”

For Araúz, a long day became a very sweet one.

“Obviously I’m very aware of what happened today, what happened to the team and where the team was at that moment,” said Araúz. “I also obviously remembered it was my first home run of the year. And the combination of the day it was, it being my first home run to put the team ahead late in the game, it was a huge home run for me. It’s probably a home run that I know I’m not going to forget.”