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Xander makes Tribe pay after Devers' free pass

@IanMBrowne
August 14, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Could you blame Terry Francona for having about enough of Rafael Devers by the time he stepped up in the top of the seventh inning with the game still very much hanging in the balance? With first base open, Francona gave Devers an intentional free pass and dared

CLEVELAND -- Could you blame Terry Francona for having about enough of Rafael Devers by the time he stepped up in the top of the seventh inning with the game still very much hanging in the balance?

With first base open, Francona gave Devers an intentional free pass and dared Xander Bogaerts beat him.

Bogaerts responded by bashing a three-run homer to left field against Indians reliever Nick Goody that gave the Red Sox some breathing room and sent them on their way to a 5-1 victory in the rubber match of a three-game series at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon.

Box score

It was the second homer of the game for Bogaerts, and No. 27 on the season.

"I guess it definitely gets you going a little bit and understanding that they think you're the weaker guy," said Bogaerts. "You feel it, you feel it. Obviously you're not trying to hit a homer every time, but you're just trying to at least get a run in or put a good swing but not to strike out, otherwise you'll make them look good on that. I mean, I laid off some tough sliders. That last one, he just left it up and I saw it real well and I swung."

And Francona moved on, knowing the move was a logical one, regardless of the result.

"Yeah, sometimes it's a little bit like pick your poison," said Francona. "I mean, Devers is in one of those streaks right now where it looks like he's playing softball. It didn't make me feel good with the result, but I would have had a more difficult time if [Devers had come through]. We've got an open base and we've got a guy that's 8-for-9. Pitching to him, that didn't seem to make sense."

The first long ball by Bogaerts came immediately after -- who else? -- Devers had gone deep in the third to get the Red Sox on the board. That gave Devers eight hits in eight at-bats dating back to Tuesday's game.

By following Devers with a wall-clearing shot of his own, Bogaerts came up with No. 100 in his career, all of them for the Red Sox.

"I completely forgot it was my 100th. For some reason, I don't know why I forgot," said Bogaerts. "All the weeks before I kind of had it in my head. I think it's kind of good that I got it out of the way. I just completely forgot. I think just being in the game in that moment, I just completely forgot about that."

Before Wednesday's power show, Bogaerts had been in a rare slump, going 10-for-51 (.196 average) with no homers and four RBIs in his previous 51 at-bats.

"You've got to be aware and understand it's kind of my time to grind through it right now and it's not the whole season you're going to be going good," said Bogaerts. "Understand and try not to get too frustrated. It's hard, man. It's hard, because us as competitors, we want to do good always and don't want to hear about slumps or anything like that."

That slump aside, Bogaerts is having a monster season -- the best of his career and best by any Boston player not named Devers. In 119 games, Bogaerts has a line of .308/.384/.563 with 93 runs, 40 doubles and 92 RBIs.

And give Bogaerts credit for his timing. He picked the perfect time to break out. The Red Sox, with 39 games left in their season, are treating each day like the playoffs in hopes of finding a way to get there, even if the math (7 1/2 games behind the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot) is against them.

Cora treating August like October

It is clear that urgency is in the air by the way manager Alex Cora has maneuvered through the last two games, both victories. Leading, 2-1, on Wednesday, Cora removed starter Brian Johnson with two outs in the bottom of the third and asked his bullpen to bring it home.

Marcus Walden, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Cashner and Brandon Workman combined nicely on the final 19 outs.

Eovaldi took on two innings, allowing just one hit, and has looked tremendous the last two days -- ever since Cora contemplated moving him back to the starting rotation.

Will Eovaldi start on Sunday against the Orioles or stay in the bullpen? The way things are going lately, the answer could be both.

"Aw, man, let me enjoy the off-day on that one. Let me go [spend time with my] twins and the family and we'll talk Friday," said Cora.

Cora was asked how long his pitching staff can endure the all-hands-on-deck approach he deployed the last two games in Cleveland.

"We're about to find out, honestly," said Cora. "We put ourselves in a bad position, but we understand that we've got a shot to make up some ground. The season is not over. We've got a month and a half and we haven't been hot, so we'll figure it out. We've got a lot of off days and September is coming, too, so we just need people to get outs and keep moving forward."

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