'Dangerous' Devers' HR, 2B lift Sox in finale
BOSTON -- During his season-long surge of power-packed hits, the only real flaw for Rafael Devers had been his inability to do much damage against lefties.
That all changed at the most opportune time(s) on Wednesday night as the left-handed-hitting masher came up with two big hits to lead the Red Sox to a 9-5 victory over the Braves in which the final three innings were played following a rain delay of two hours and 53 minutes.
For the Red Sox, the wait was well worth it, as they improved their record to 30-20 at the 50-game mark of the season.
With the Sox down 3-1 with two outs in the fourth, Devers scorched a game-tying two-run homer to center against Braves lefty Drew Smyly that left his bat at an exit velocity of 107.1 mph and traveled a projected 434 feet, per Statcast.
“When he’s locked in, he’s very dangerous,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “He’s not the type of guy who can just do it for a couple of days. He can ride it a long time. That’s just a credit to the talent and the work he puts in. Once you see him so confident, it’s something that’s very nice to see.”
After the Braves took the lead and the Sox tied it up, Devers untied it with another big two-out hit off Smyly in the sixth, this one a 102.8 mph missile that looked like it was going to dent the Green Monster, but instead caromed off of it for an RBI double.
Coming into the contest, Devers was slashing .224/.333/.306 against lefties with only one homer and seven RBIs in 57 plate appearances.
“He got an 0-2 breaking ball, put a great swing on it and hits a home run. Then stays on a fastball, he doesn’t get pull happy, and hits it off the wall,” manager Alex Cora said. “So that’s a good sign right there for him to get a fastball and hit it the other way.”
While solving the “lefty” issue, Devers padded his extra-base hit totals, which have been ridiculous as of late. Eighteen of his last 24 hits have been for extra bases, as well as 14 of his last 18.
In his age-24 season, Devers is putting it all together as the No. 5 hitter for the Red Sox, rounding out a fearsome middle of the order that also includes J.D. Martinez and Bogaerts.
“Devers just hits it hard. It’s coming hard at you, so you better get out of the way or you’re going to get hit by it,” Bogaerts said.
Verdugo steals a run
One of the biggest plays of the game came on a 71.5 mph grounder to third base by Bogaerts in that game-turning sixth. The Red Sox have been struggling mightily with a runner on third and less than two outs, and entered the night 29th in the Majors in OPS in that category. So when Bogaerts tapped one to third with the Red Sox down a run, it looked like another chance was going to be squandered.
However, thanks to Alex Verdugo, who got a great jump from third and roared home on the play to narrowly beat the throw by Braves third baseman Austin Riley, it went down as a fielder’s choice RBI.
The Sox would go on to score three more runs before the inning was over.
“It was a great jump and Xander with two strikes put the ball in play,” Cora said. “Alex gets a good primary lead, a good secondary and good reaction. Great slide too. Something we talk about and we work on and he was able to score there.”