Raffy admires 429-foot HR: 'Just having fun'

June 5th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Busted up by fastballs of late, unleashed all of his recent frustration with one swing.

The slugging third baseman got the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry for 2021 off to a flying start Friday night, when he took a high 0-2 fastball from Michael King and hammered it into the upper deck in right field for a three-run homer in the top of the first.

Devers clearly enjoyed timing a 96.1 mph fastball so perfectly early in Boston's eventual 5-2 victory. He stood and watched it soar into the Yankee Stadium night and joyfully flipped his bat before he took his trek around the bases.

"It was obviously just in the moment," said Devers. "It's not something that I try and show up anybody. I'm just having fun out there. It's a part of the game now, especially. I'm just living in the moment and just enjoying that."

The Red Sox were also living in the moment in what was a satisfying night for a team that had been beaten up at Yankee Stadium in the previous two seasons, losing 15 out of 16 -- including 11 consecutive road defeats against their top rivals heading into Friday.

Thanks in large part to the early momentum created by Devers, who ripped his 15th homer of the season at an exit velocity of 112.4 mph and a projected distance of 429 feet, that losing streak in the Bronx was put to bed.

"It's very important," said Devers. "We haven't had that much success since 2019 against this club here. It's extremely important to be able to get these wins and make the adjustments."

While it is clear that Devers isn't losing bat speed at the age of 24, he had strangely battled to sync up his swing to fastballs this season, never more than in the recently-completed four-game series in Houston in which Boston lost three out of four.

"Obviously they're throwing me a lot of fastballs and I'm not mad about it," Devers said. "I just make my adjustments, and obviously I was able to hit that one pretty deep. But that's really what it's all about, is making the adjustments and trying to do what I can with it."

Entering Friday's game, Devers was hitting .190 on fastballs compared to .354 on breaking pitches and .485 vs. offspeed stuff.

Pitchers will try to exploit Devers with fastballs while they can, but he put them on notice with Friday's big hit, and also a double in Thursday's win in Houston that came off of a fastball.

"I mean, he saw a lot of fastballs in Houston, so he's a smart hitter," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "He knows these guys have special fastballs, too. That one was up in the zone, he got on top of it and he crushed that one. He put some good swings toward the end in Houston. He made some adjustments, and that's who he is. He looks lost for a little bit, but then he's one swing away from doing damage."

For the Red Sox, it was a fast start to a weekend showdown in the Bronx.

There were other takeaways from a win that put Boston just one game behind the Rays in the American League East.

Nate brings the heat
For all the talk about how well Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez have been pitching, is quietly putting together a strong season.

The fireballer held the Yankees to one earned run over six innings, striking out seven. He is 7-2 with a 3.78 ERA.

"He goes about it the right way," said Cora. "It doesn't matter the result. His process is up there with the best of them. He works his tail off in his studies. He talks to Christian [Vázquez] and with Kevin [Plawecki]. He does a good job with Jason [Varitek] and [pitching coach Dave Bush] and [bullpen coach Kevin Walker], and his preparation is amazing. Sometimes the results are not there, but the effort and the preparation, they're always there. You can see the results."

Konnichiwa to the rivalry
Until Friday night, Red Sox righty had only known about MLB's longest-standing rivalry from watching it on television.

But the rookie entered the fray in impressive fashion by getting six big outs, allowing one walk while striking out five. Sawamura continues to earn more high-leverage opportunities from Cora.

"Actually, Sawamura threw the ball well in Houston. We just didn't make plays behind him. Then, the second time, his fastball was electric down there," said Cora. "Today, he did an amazing job. The split, the slider, a good fastball. He kept them off-balance, making them chase pitches. A really good one for him."