Xander Bogaerts’ shoulders slacked as soon as the ball left his bat. Perhaps he felt an imaginary weight being lifted. More likely, though, he just knew the ball was leaving the yard.
With his first home run of the season in his 59th at-bat, Bogaerts brought the Red Sox a lead they would not relinquish in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. The win improved the Red Sox's record to 12-6 -- best in the American League.
Bogaerts may not have had a home run in his first 15 games, but he did post a .927 OPS and served as a key cog in Boston’s red-hot offense. The Red Sox now have 22 homers in 19 games -- second most in the AL -- and they lead the Majors in OPS (.817).
In the fourth inning, Bogaerts stepped to the plate with two on, no outs and the Red Sox trailing by a run. That changed in a flash, as he turned swiftly on a high-and-tight fastball and soared it over the Green Monster. What made the three-run shot additionally impressive is that it produced more runs than Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu had allowed in any of his past six outings.
Bogaerts also doubled off Ryu earlier in the game -- one of five extra-base hits for the Red Sox on the night.
“[The Blue Jays] needed a shutdown inning -- they didn’t get it,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It was a good swing. That was a good effort against a good pitcher.”
What Cora failed to mention is that he predicted the home run, or so Bogaerts alleges. The shortstop said Cora predicted that Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez would get on, and Bogaerts would bring them home.
“I think that whole inning, Alex Cora predicted [that], to be honest with you,” Bogaerts said. “I was like, ‘You’re talking about me hitting a home run? I don’t have a home run at all.’”
Sometimes, a manager just knows. Bogaerts’ power surge came after he requested to take Monday off, and he spent the day working in the cage and fielding grounders.
“Obviously, you want to play, but [Cora] talked to me a little bit, and I told him I kind of needed a little mental getaway, you know, a break,” Bogaerts said. “It worked out perfectly.”
'Steady Eddie' shoves again
Very few pitchers model consistency as well as Eduardo Rodriguez these days, which is why the moniker, “Steady Eddie,” makes so much sense.
Rodriguez worked six-plus innings on Tuesday, marking his 31st consecutive start of five-plus innings. Only Shane Bieber (36) and Justin Verlander (33) have longer active streaks.
“He’s evolving into one of the best lefties in the league,” Cora said. “He attacks the zone with good stuff. The tempo is magnificent. He slows the running game down, too. He has a good feel of what he wants to do.”
On this night, Rodriguez made two mistakes, and they both cleared the wall. But both homers were solo shots, a testament to Rodriguez’s ability to largely keep the Blue Jays off the bases. He worked his five-pitch mix effectively, allowing no more than one baserunner per inning.
Unsurprisingly, Rodriguez’s ability to work five or more innings has led to great results for his team. The Red Sox are 25-6 during his streak, and Rodriguez has enjoyed a 3.38 ERA along the way.
It’s fair to remember that Rodriguez has only made three starts since 2019 after missing all of last year with myocarditis (a complication of COVID-19). He’s happy with the early success he’s had this season -- including a fastball that’s back up to touching 95 mph -- but hopes to keep sharpening his command.
“Right now, it’s just -- try to attack more hitters, throw more strikes and get more deep in the game,” Rodriguez said.
He has only pitched into the seventh inning twice in his past 10 starts, but his five-inning baseline is nothing to scoff at -- it means he’s consistently giving Boston a chance to win.