Rafaela rewards Red Sox's patience with 7 RBIs in 17-run shutout

April 28th, 2024

BOSTON -- Patience. That is what the Red Sox have been preaching for people to exercise when it comes to ’s bat.

And the rookie, known for his top-notch defense in center field and at shortstop, proved Saturday that his offense could be worth waiting for.

It was there throughout the contest, in which the Red Sox routed the Cubs, 17-0, before a packed house of 35,169 at Fenway Park.

Rafaela, who entered the day with a .156 average, punctuated his breakout game (4-for-4, seven RBIs) with a two-run homer over the Green Monster that he blistered a Statcast-projected 411 feet at an exit velocity of 105.4 mph in the seventh inning. According to OptaSTATS, the only other rookie to go 4-for-4 with seven RBIs and a steal was Bo Jackson in 1987.

Will Rafaela’s big day carry over?

“We’ll know tomorrow, right?” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “That's the beauty of this game. We don't know what’s going to happen tomorrow. He had a good game in Pittsburgh on [April 19]. He didn't have a good game the next [few] days. So we continue to work with him and give him structure, guidance and help him out. And like I said yesterday, we’ve just got to be patient.”

Rafaela’s patience is what led to his sensational Saturday. He didn’t leave the strike zone.

“I think I was patient at the plate and waited for the best pitch to hit,” Rafaela said. “I think going into the game and executing the plan, I think that’s why I saw those results.”

Talent has never been the issue for Rafaela in his journey through the farm system or in his brief time with the Major League club. It has always been about swing decisions. That comes more naturally for some than it does for others.

For the 23-year-old Rafaela, it is a work in progress. Boston is willing to trade some inconsistency on offense for his elite defense every day.

“Just keep improving,” said Cora. “I’m not going to talk about numbers, all that. We just want him to improve, and we know the upside and we know what he can become. But this is the big leagues, and it takes a while. There's a learning curve, and we have to be patient.”

There’s that word again.

The Red Sox haven’t needed to be patient with Rafaela’s glove and cannon arm.

He has already shown value to the team by making a seamless move to shortstop after Trevor Story’s season-ending left shoulder injury. He started the year as the center fielder.

“I think it's seamless, always,” said Rafaela. “I’m confident at short and enjoy playing short. I take pride in it. It’s a special position -- especially here in Fenway -- at shortstop.”

The Red Sox displayed their faith in Rafaela earlier this month when they signed him to an eight-year, $50 million contract extension.

The wiry right-handed hitter from Curaçao was also in the middle of his team’s six-run rally in the bottom of the fifth when he belted a three-run double off the base of the Green Monster.

With the crowd still on its feet, Rafaela then stole third base.

Earlier in the game, Rafaela ripped a 106.5 mph single off the wall.

And don’t overlook Rafaela’s one plate appearance in which he didn’t get a hit. When the game was still tight in the fourth, he did a nice piece of situational hitting when he laced a sacrifice fly to right that gave Boston a 3-0 lead.

“Obviously, that swing is the swing that set me up for the rest of the day,” Rafaela said. “I think right there, in that spot, to help the team was huge for me. I love it. I think that's professional, right there. I think it was a good AB, not for me, but for the team.”

Rafaela produced hard-hit balls (exit velocity of 95 mph or more) in all five of his plate appearances.

“You know he can bust out at any time. He’s super electric,” said Josh Winckowski, who threw the first three innings of Boston’s combined shutout on Saturday. “He’s been doing a really, really good job at short. You have a bunch of confidence with him behind you, and then he can swing it with the best of them.”