SEATTLE -- When Xander Bogaerts belted a go-ahead homer that wound up as the deciding hit in a tense, 2-1 victory over the Mariners on Thursday night at Safeco Field, it seemed that would be his signature moment.But the shortstop would also display some brilliance with the glove, turning in
SEATTLE -- When Xander Bogaerts belted a go-ahead homer that wound up as the deciding hit in a tense, 2-1 victory over the Mariners on Thursday night at Safeco Field, it seemed that would be his signature moment.
But the shortstop would also display some brilliance with the glove, turning in one of the most athletic double plays imaginable to help make that slight lead stand up.
The homer -- No. 10 on the season -- and the jaw-dropping double play both happened in an eventful sixth inning.
In a riveting pitcher's duel between David Price and Felix Hernandez in a game featuring two of the top teams in the American League, Bogaerts proved to be the difference.
With two outs in that top of the sixth, Bogaerts was down in the count, 0-2, and kept himself alive with some defensive swings on foul balls. He eventually got to 2-2, and belted one high and deep to left-center to equal his home run total from last season.
"I was looking horrendous," said Bogaerts. "I'm not going to lie. I was looking real bad. Fouled off some tough pitches, but no one thought I was going to hit it out. I don't even think I did. I was just trying to hit the ball in play, get on base. I wasn't looking for a home run right there. Just trying to stay in the middle of the field but reminding myself to let the ball up."
Then came the brilliance with the glove in the bottom of the inning. Price was frustrated after grazing the speedy Dee Gordon with an 0-2 changeup to open the inning. Jean Segura then worked an 11-pitch at-bat, and stung one toward the middle that Bogaerts made a sliding stop on.
In one motion, he tagged the bag with his glove for the force and then, from his knees, fired a strike to first for the double play.
"They made an adjustment with Segura," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "They switched coverage, him and [second baseman Eduardo] Nunez. He was in the spot, he got to it, and had the presence of mind just to get to the bag, get the lead runner first, and for him to be able to turn it -- that's a fast runner -- it was a great play."
Though Bogaerts is known more for his bat, the play was a reminder of what he is capable of with the glove.
"Give a lot of credit to Nunez right there for flipping the coverage, because he's normally the guy who has to cover there, but he felt strongly about me covering the base on that particular pitch and it worked out fine," said Bogaerts. "I mean, as soon as I caught it, I saw the bag right there and I knew I had a good chance of turning two. It's just a matter of me catching it first before touching the base."
But how did he make such a strong throw from his knees?
"In Spring Training, on ground balls, you joke around with other infielders. But in the game, that was a pretty good one," said Bogaerts. "That point in the game, it would've been first and third with no outs and that wouldn't have been real nice."
There would be more slick glove work to come from Bogaerts. With one out in the ninth, Ryon Healy hit a sharp grounder to Bogaerts' right. He lunged, falling to his knees as he gloved the ball, then threw to second, where Nunez relayed it on to first to clinch the victory.
"He's doing an outstanding job defensively," said Cora. "People haven't noticed that. I think he's buying into what we're trying to do defensively. It seems like he's in the spot. He's been getting a lot of ground balls lately in that spot. So, we're very pleased with the way he's playing."
And also pleased with the way he's hitting.
The 10 homers by Bogaerts have come in 210 at-bats. Last year, he hit that many in 571 at-bats.
"I do feel that he can drive the ball," said Cora. "And he needs to believe it. I think he understands. The other day we had a conversation -- and this is weird because you used to talk about average and RBIs -- I pulled him aside and we talked about OPS. I was like, 'You're right there with the good ones, you know.' And he was kind of like, 'Yes, I am."'
Bogaerts joins teammates J.D. Martinez (22), Mookie Betts (18), Andrew Benintendi (12), Mitch Moreland (10) and Rafael Devers (10) to give the Red Sox a Major League-high of six players with 10 homers or more on the season.
The home run was the 28th hit of the season for Bogaerts with two strikes. Fifteen of those two-strike hits have been for extra bases. Bogaerts has 276 two-strike hits since 2015, 16 more than any other hitter over that span.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.