If ever there was a player built for a doubleheader, it is Alex Verdugo, otherwise known as the Energizer Bunny of the Boston Red Sox.
The outfielder plays at a frenetic pace, be it with his glove, his bat or on the bases.
And on Wednesday, as the Red Sox ran their thrilling winning streak to nine games with a most satisfying twin-bill sweep of the Twins at Target Field, Verdugo simply wouldn’t let his surging squad lose either game.
After hanging on for a 3-2 win in Game 1 on Verdugo’s clutch diving catch, Boston turned the tables on Twins ace José Berríos and the bullpen in the fifth inning of a 7-1 conquest in Game 2.
Verdugo fueled his team with his glove in Game 1 and his bat in both games. Both were seven innings.
Fourteen innings later, Verdugo probably could have kept going.
“I've always been a very emotional player,” Verdugo said. “Whether it's good or bad, I like to show some emotions, and obviously when we come through and we make big plays or score some runs and take a lead or something like that, those are big moments, and those are kind of game changers.”
Verdugo was a game changer for sure on this day.
In the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 1, the Twins thought they were the ones about to change the game. With a runner at second and two outs, Luis Arraez hit a sinking liner to left that definitely would have tied it.
But Verdugo raced to get there and outstretched his glove for a diving snag that ended the game. His reaction at first was almost a shrug and a wave of his arms, as if to say, “No big deal.” Then he let loose, as closer Matt Barnes wrapped him up in a bear hug.
“For me, I just naturally get fired up, and I like to look in the dugout and kind of see the boys riled up and fired up as well,” Verudgo said.
All of Red Sox Nation is fired up at the moment. Getting swept by the Orioles at Fenway Park in the first three games of the season almost feels as if it never happened for manager Alex Cora’s team.
“Overall, it was a great day for the Red Sox,” Cora said after Wednesday's sweep.
The same could be said of their No. 2 hitter, who went 2-for-4 in Game 1 before adding a 3-for-4 performance in the nightcap.
As you might have guessed, Verdugo was a key component of the stirring six-run rally that turned a 1-0 deficit on its ear. The left-handed hitter roped Twins reliever Tyler Duffey’s 2-2 heater for a two-out two-run single that snapped a 1-1 tie.
In that at-bat, Verdugo was not to be denied.
“Oh, I was not going to let him beat me, man,” Verdugo said. “I had a pretty good swing at his curveball, and then I had a good swing at his fastball as well. So I saw both of his pitches, and at that point, being with two strikes, I was just like, 'Hey, we’ve got to go.' There’s no more trying to get that grand slam. There’s no more trying to do this or that. It’s, 'Hey, whatever pitch you get, throw the head at it and you barrel it up.'
“Whatever happens, happens. And, you know, he threw me a heater in, and I was able to clear my hips and shoot it to right-center, and good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
When Verdugo came up again in the seventh, he unloaded for a solo homer to cap his memorable day and night. The rocket to right roared off Verdugo’s bat at an exit velocity of 109.4 mph and went a projected distance of 406 feet.
“Alex is a good player, a very solid player,” Cora said. “I'm learning a lot about him. He can hit righties, he can hit lefties, he controls the strike zone, he knows his swing, good defender, overall a good baseball player. He's still young, he's still learning, but we're very pleased with the way he's playing the game right now.”
After enduring a 24-36 season with the Red Sox last year while his former team -- the Dodgers -- won the World Series, Verdugo is loving life these days.
“It’s pretty special,” Verdugo said of the current happenings of his team. “I feel like, from 1 through 9, any of the guys can hit a home run. But also, not only that, they can tap into a professional at-bat and shoot the ball the other way or go with the pitch. This winning streak, everybody’s had their moments. That’s how you become a good ball team and keep winning.”