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Sox wrap trip; 5 things to look for at Fenway

Final games have meaning for Devers, Betts, Martinez, E-Rod, fans
@IanMBrowne
September 26, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Red Sox checked their final road game off from their 2019 schedule with a 7-5 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park on Thursday afternoon, and attention quickly shifted to the team’s final three games at Fenway Park this weekend against the Orioles. Ideally, the Sox

ARLINGTON -- The Red Sox checked their final road game off from their 2019 schedule with a 7-5 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park on Thursday afternoon, and attention quickly shifted to the team’s final three games at Fenway Park this weekend against the Orioles.

Ideally, the Sox would have spent this weekend either A) preparing for the playoffs or B) fighting for a playoff spot.

But as you’ve gathered by now, Boston’s attempted title defense in 2019 was far less than ideal.

The Red Sox made it close when, trailing 5-3 in the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a home run, and after Sandy Leon popped out, Chris Owings followed with a solo homer to tie the game. But Willie Calhoun led off the bottom of the inning with a homer of his own, followed later in the inning by a Rougned Odor dinger, and that's where the scoring, and the Red Sox road schedule, ended.

Box score

And with that, the Sox head home for the final Fenway series against the Orioles, where interesting storylines still await.

Devers chasing 200 hits

When we look back at what went right for the 2019 Red Sox, the first thing likely to come to mind is the breakout season of Rafael Devers, and the joy for the game he displayed.

The 22-year-old has already had a collection of milestones this season. His 32 homers are a club record for a third baseman. So, too, are his 52 doubles. If he can hit another homer, he will pass Tony Conigliaro for most in a season by a Boston player before turning 23.

And if he can get four hits over the three games against Baltimore, he will reach the 200-hit milestone for the season.

“He doesn’t want to be good,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He wants to be great. And that’s the cool thing about it.”

Mookie going for 30

At one point, it looked like Mookie Betts would have a significant downturn this season. But in July, he got hot. And in September, he got even hotter. The right fielder will finish with his typical All-Star-caliber season, though a tick below his American League Most Valuable Player Award-winning performance of a year ago.

With one home run this weekend, Betts will reach 30 for the third time in the last four years. If it happens, the Sox would have the first 30-homer quartet in team history. J.D. Martinez (35), Xander Bogaerts (32) and Devers are already in the 30-homer club, marking just the third time Boston has had three players reach that number in the same season.

Betts could also join franchise legend David Ortiz as the only Boston players to record 30-plus homers and 40-plus doubles in as many as three seasons.

“I wish I could’ve had a grinding season like Mookie. He dominates the game,” said Cora. “He’s a great player. He dominates the game defensively, running the bases. Obviously, from the leadoff spot, I love what he does up there. He’ll be fine next year.

J.D.’s final chapter with Boston?

Martinez has been a run-producing masher since he was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent in February 2018.

That contract was for five years, but it includes an opt-out clause after both this season and next season. Martinez could take the buyout if he believes he can top the $62.5 million he would make over the next three seasons for the Red Sox.

However, Martinez could be tentative about returning to free agency, given that it took him the entire offseason and more to get a job just two years ago.

This will be an interesting call. At any rate, the Fenway faithful should show some appreciation for Martinez this weekend for the firepower he has given the club the last two seasons.

E-Rod looks for 20/200

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez emerged as the Red Sox ace this season. And there is a built-in storyline for the final game of the regular season as Rodriguez pushes for his 20th victory.

There is another number that is perhaps as meaningful for Rodriguez, as he looks to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career. He only needs 3 2/3 innings to get there.

Look for Cora to go with his “A” lineup on Sunday in an effort to get Rodriguez his 20th win.

“Just finish strong,” Rodriguez said. “That was the plan when I got here in Spring Training, finish the season strong, get ready for the next one.”

Opportunity for fans to connect

The Red Sox are using the final weekend of the season as an opportunity to allow their fans to connect with players on a personal level.

Players will greet fans at all Fenway Park gates as they enter the park from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. ET, and will help distribute schedules for the 2020 season.

Prior to Sunday’s 3:05 p.m. ET game, players will be available on the field from 1:15 to 2 p.m. to take photos with fans as they walk around the warning track. Fans will be invited to run the bases after the game.

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