'He's a special kid': Devers ignites offense

October 12th, 2021

BOSTON -- Three innings into the decisive Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on Monday night, the Rays and Red Sox were knotted at zero.

When stepped to the plate, there were a combined two hits between both teams. With two men on base after a Christian Vázquez single and a Kyle Schwarber walk, Devers delivered the first blow of the game: a three-run blast to give Boston a 3-0 lead in its eventual 6-5 walk-off win over the Rays to send the Sox to the AL Championship Series.

The homer jump-started Boston's offense and marked the fifth of Devers' postseason career. Only David Ortiz (17), Jason Varitek (11), Manny Ramirez (11), Nomar Garciaparra (seven) and Kevin Youkilis (six) had more in their Red Sox careers. And at just 24 years old, Devers presumably has time to move up the ranks.

Devers, who turns 25 on Oct. 24, added his name to yet another record list on Monday. His 20 postseason RBIs are tied with Andruw Jones for the third most by a player under 25. With the Red Sox advancing to the next round, Devers has an opportunity to jump ahead of Carlos Correa (24) and Albert Pujols (21) before celebrating his 25th birthday.

"He's only 24, 25 in 10 days," manager Alex Cora said. "I always said that there's a lot of young players, very talented players, but this kid, he's still young. Been there, done that. He has a World Series ring. He's dominated October, and we're very proud of him."

Much like the Red Sox, Devers got off to a quiet start in the ALDS, going 1-for-4 in Game 1 on Thursday. The numbers, and the swing, looked off for Devers, who has been wearing a sleeve since Sept. 26 as he battles an apparent right forearm injury. Neither Cora or Devers have confirmed the injury, though his manager has said Devers isn't "100 percent." The ailment has affected Devers particularly when swinging on fastballs, the type of pitch he belted off the Rays' Shane McClanahan for the three-run shot.

"Getting to see Rafy for 162 [games] was special," Kiké Hernández said. "Then people are talking about what's going on with him and his health and all this, but he keeps finding a way to get the job done. And he came up huge for us tonight. I'm glad he had the night he had."

Two rounds into the 2021 postseason, Devers has two homers, six RBIs and a 1.017 OPS. In his 20 career postseason games, the third baseman has 20 RBIs and a .925 OPS. His 20 postseason RBIs make him just the seventh player (at any age 20+) with that many through their first 20 career postseason games -- since 1920 when RBIs became an official stat.

"This kid since 2017, it's all he knows, right? Playoffs, and be good in the playoffs," Cora said. "When we played him in '17, he was always smiling. There was no pressure, and he put great at-bats. Even the last game here, he hit that inside-the-park home run against Ken Giles, I think it was, and it seemed like he was born to play in October.

"He did it in '18, and then this year, that last game of the regular season kind of like set the tone for the team to keep going and keep pushing. And what he did today, that was a great swing. He was under control the whole night, put good at-bats, played great defense."

The three runs were especially appreciated by starter Eduardo Rodriguez, who bounced back from a tough Game 1 start and delivered a gutsy five-inning outing on Monday. Rodriguez, who has known Devers since he got to the big leagues, isn't surprised by Devers' ability to come up in big spots.

"He's a special kid," Rodriguez said. "You guys [have seen] it in the last postseason we played, even this postseason. I know I trust him, and I know what he can do. If you miss a pitch with him, he's going to hit it out of the ballpark. That's the way he does it. He swings hard all the time. He plays hard all the time. That's the Devers we all know. It's just amazing having him as a teammate because I don't want to face him at all. I prefer to have him as a teammate right now."