BOSTON -- Saturday was Alex Verdugo 25th birthday, and the Red Sox celebrated with a day-long party on the lawn at Fenway Park.
Fittingly, Verdugo was the first to take part in the festivities, snapping an 0-for-14 slump by belting a Statcast-projected 427-foot homer into the bleachers in right field in the bottom of the first.
By the end of the day, the Red Sox were in possession of a 9-0 victory over the Angels that had Verdugo in even more of a mood to celebrate with his mom, dad, best friend and others who made the trip to Boston to watch him perform.
“It’s amazing. The last thing we want to do is lose -- especially on my birthday,” said Verdugo. “Now I just want to kind of celebrate it even more. The fact that we won, it’s already a positive thing. That’s the biggest thing. And for me personally in that first at-bat, just to kind of be going through a little skid and have a good at-bat, get a pitch out over and drive it like that in front of my family that’s here and some friends, it was a very special moment for me.”
Verdugo didn’t forget those who are most special to him. After he crossed home plate, he first pointed to his parents seated behind home plate. And then he twisted around and waved up to the Monster Seats, where his best friend and family were sitting.
The best part about the home run for Verdugo -- a notoriously emotional player -- is that it relaxed him and made him forget about a recent rut that included just two hits in 24 at-bats, none for extra bases.
“It was big,” said Verdugo. “I can’t stress that enough. It helped my shoulders, helped me all relax and just kind of have fun again.”
Fun was the operative word of this sun-splashed Saturday at Fenway.
Aside from Verdugo, nobody enjoyed the day more than Martín Pérez. The vereran left-hander came in winless in seven starts this season and hadn’t won a game at Fenway Park since joining the Red Sox in 2020.
Both those droughts came to a satisfying end for Pérez, something nobody could have seen coming in a wobbly first frame (19 pitches, nine strikes), which was aided greatly when Shohei Ohtani ran into an out at second base when he thought he had a double into the left-field corner but didn’t see his teammate Taylor Ward still standing on second base.
Pérez had actually pitched well in his previous three starts but didn’t get much in the way of run support. He got plenty in this one.
“I think today everything came together,” said Pérez. “Me [pitching], the guys hit the ball good, and like I said to you guys before, my last game here, good things are coming and now we see it. Just need to stay focused and do what we’ve been doing.
“We’re playing good baseball and the game before, I didn’t have the support, but I’m here just to go out there and compete and give a chance for my team to win. I’m not here to win 30 games. I’m here to help the team to make the playoffs. That’s my goal.”
While this was win No. 1 for Pérez, it was the 25th for the Red Sox in 41 games this season, allowing them to surpass their total of 24 in the 60-game season of ’20.
Even with Verdugo’s early homer and Pérez’s strong opening, the game was 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when Bobby Dalbec was the first to loosen up the proceedings with a sky-scraping, two-run double (46-degree launch angle) that had an expected batting average of .010 and just went over the outstretched glove of leaping left fielder Justin Upton in front of the Green Monster.
While Dalbec had spent the previous couple of days busting out of his slump, it was Franchy Cordero’s turn to do so on Saturday. The left fielder, who is in a fight to keep his roster spot with Kiké Hernández due back next week, busted out of his 0-for-17 dryspell with two RBI doubles.
“A few things in batting practice [for Cordero], I’m glad it translated into the game,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “It feels like he let it go. He was ready on time and put some good swings on it. Obviously you saw the athlete after that -- he crushes two balls and he’s flying around to get the doubles. I’m glad the bottom part of the lineup contributed, and that’s what we envisioned. These guys should do their part, and I think overall this was the best game of the season for us.”
Then there is Xander Bogaerts, who rarely slumps and instead just continues to rake. The star shortstop put the icing on Verdugo’s birthday cake by mauling a three-run shot that went over everything in left field and onto Lansdowne Street to make it 7-0. The ninth homer of the season from Bogaerts had a projected distance of 446 feet, his second longest since Statcast started in 2015.
“It’s just a different sound off the bat,” said Cora. “They attack him with breaking balls early in the game and he puts the ball in play, then he gets the double. But there he gets a fastall. It looked like it was middle-middle and he didn’t miss it.”
So, Verdugo, how was that nine-inning birthday bash?
“It was extremely nice, I won’t lie,” Verdugo said.