BOSTON -- If the early power from Chris Sale (nine strikeouts in five innings) and J.D. Martinez (two-run rocket in the first) wasn't enough for the Red Sox to put away the pesky Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night, a towering three-run shot by Xander Bogaerts helped do the job.Bogaerts, demonstrating
BOSTON -- If the early power from Chris Sale (nine strikeouts in five innings) and J.D. Martinez (two-run rocket in the first) wasn't enough for the Red Sox to put away the pesky Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night, a towering three-run shot by Xander Bogaerts helped do the job.
Bogaerts, demonstrating the type of swing that was his norm in the early part of the season, belted one high and far over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom of the sixth in what wound up being the biggest hit of Wednesday's 6-4 victory over the Athletics.
"I mean, we were up 3-2, it was a tight game after [Marcus] Semien hit that home run," said Bogaerts. "Just trying to get Sale some extra runs and get into our bullpen, since we knew he had a lot of pitches and was probably coming out."
The win allowed the Red Sox to salvage the finale of a three-game series against Oakland, a team that took four of six from Boston for the season. Boston leads the Majors in wins with 29, but it trails the Yankees by a half-game in the American League East.
"Those guys, get them out of here," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Oakland. "The quality of the at-bats, I was just telling somebody, that was uncomfortable, the way they foul off pitches. Even with two strikes, they're doing damage. They kept fouling off fastballs, putting together good at-bats."
Due to Oakland's strong approach, Sale (4-1, 2.29 ERA) had to exit earlier than he would have liked due to his pitch count (102), and departed with a slight lead at 3-2.
"It just seemed like a lot of foul balls," said Sale. "My offspeed stuff wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, especially my breaking ball. I got into some old habits tonight. My arm felt good, I felt loose, I felt strong. Command was obviously erratic, but this is Major League Baseball. If you go out there with not your best stuff, it's going to be tough. If you give somebody something, they're going to take advantage of it. But my guys were there tonight to pick me up."
Aside from Martinez, nobody gave Sale a bigger pick-me-up than Bogaerts, who opened up some breathing room with that three-run homer to make it 6-2 and showed signs that he might be ready to get hot again.
It was homer No. 5 on the season for Bogaerts, who came into the game hitting .214 in May with a homer and three RBIs.
"He can hit," said Cora. "I do feel like he can drive the ball. But he can hit .330, .335 and, of course, go the other way. He can do that. But if he can hit .300 and drive the ball out of the ballpark, I'll take that one."
The Red Sox might have tacked on more insurance if not for a sensational catch by A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty, who snagged a foul ball by Mookie Betts and somehow hung on as he landed in the stands.
However, none of the Athletics had any shot to catch that early missile by Martinez. The slugger's two-run shot to left-center crashed against the section of wall where the Green Monster intersects with the bleachers and traveled a projected distance of 422 feet, according to Statcast™.
It was Martinez's seventh homer in the last 14 games and third in the last four. He also continued his streak of getting on base to 21 games, a career high.
"I have a cue that I'm riding right now so I'm kind of just riding that out right now and it kind of seems to be working," Martinez said.
The blast by Bogaerts wound up being a key to victory, considering the solo homers by Matt Joyce and Matt Olson that followed in the seventh and ninth, respectively.
"Yeah, I went up with a plan and kind of stuck to it," said Bogaerts. "I know he has a good fastball and a good slider. Sometimes percentages are good to go with. He's a good pitcher, he got me out enough times. I figured the guys on base, maybe look for his best pitch."
This is the seventh time in Red Sox history they've won at least 29 of their first 43 games and the first time since the World Series championship team of 2007 that Cora played for.
HE SAID IT
"Cora told me today after my first at-bat to get a little bit ready earlier. That helped me. My second at-bat, I hit a line drive and my third at-bat I hit a home run, so it kind of helped me. Sometimes someone seeing it from the side has a better view of what you're doing in the box." -- Bogaerts, on a hitting tip from his manager that helped lead to his crucial home run
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The catch that Piscotty made against Betts on that foul ball in the sixth was so exquisite that even the umpires initially couldn't believe it. Initially, it was ruled that the Piscotty didn't hang on to the ball cleanly. But the A's were so sure that he did they came running off the field for what they presumed to be the third out of the inning. They were right. After a brief review, the call was overturned and Piscotty was credited for his sweet catch.
Mookie Betts could be in store for a big night when the Red Sox open a four-game series against the Orioles on Thursday night at Fenway Park. Betts is batting .444 (12-for-27) with a double, three homers and seven RBIs lifetime against Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman. The Red Sox counter with lefty David Price (3-4, 4.89 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.