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Walk-off Red Sox 'still hustling, still hungry'

@IanMBrowne
June 25, 2019

BOSTON -- By their very nature, walk-off hits are joyous occasions in which players swarm the hero and raise coolers over their heads to douse him in celebration. But the one on Monday night at Fenway Park was sweeter than normal for the Red Sox because that walk-off hero was

BOSTON -- By their very nature, walk-off hits are joyous occasions in which players swarm the hero and raise coolers over their heads to douse him in celebration.

But the one on Monday night at Fenway Park was sweeter than normal for the Red Sox because that walk-off hero was Marco Hernandez, who had moments like this far from his mind as he recovered from three different surgeries on his left shoulder over the last two years.

Box score

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Hernandez squirted a grounder to the hole at shortstop and Tim Anderson made an off-balance throw and skipped it to first on a tough play. José Abreu couldn’t corral it, not that it mattered. Hernandez beat the throw anyway. Andrew Benintendi (who started the rally with a double) came roaring home to win it, 6-5, for the Red Sox.

Hernandez hit it just soft enough (74.2 mph exit velocity) to create a thrilling victory.

How sweet it was for a Boston team that had lost two out of three to open the homestand and were in danger of another tough defeat. Instead, capped by Hernandez’s heroics, they secured their second walk-off win in the span of four days.

“I think it’s a great feeling going around. Walk-offs just feel different,” said Jackie Bradley Jr., who smashed a 418-foot homer to right-center field in the second inning. “Everybody’s excited and the team morale is hopefully boosted.”

Hernandez was boosted for sure.

“I mean, it feels pretty good. It’s been a blessing for me being here again and helping the team win, especially right now,” said Hernandez. “We need to win as many games as we can before the All-Star break. This is a huge win for us and I think we continue to do that.”

At a time when they continue to struggle with situational hitting (3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and 11 runners left on base on Monday), the Red Sox need to scratch and claw their way to victory. At 43-37, they are eight games behind the Yankees in the American League East.

“We need to play like it’s the last game of the season, bring 100 percent every single day,” said Eduardo Núñez, who had two game-tying hits to make Hernandez’s game-ender possible. “This team has very good players. We’re still hustling, still hungry. I think we’re not hungover [from the World Series] like people say. It’s just that things aren’t working.

“We keep working hard. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to get back to how we are. We have three more months to show up and put the game where we need to be.”

And on this satisfying night, the Red Sox were able to shed some of their stress and celebrate Hernandez’s moment.

“It was amazing,” said Bradley. “I had a very good feeling when Marco came to the plate. He’s gonna battle, he’s gonna have a professional at-bat and he was able to get it just out of the reach and beat it out. It was amazing, a lot of fun and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”

It also couldn’t have happened at a better time.

“It’s big,” Bradley said. “We needed it.”

As much of a grind as the season has been so far for the Red Sox, perhaps the adversity that Hernandez went through serves as a reminder that things could always be worse.

“Since the first day I saw him back in the lineup I felt so happy for him because, like you say, everything he’s been through, all those injures, all those surgeries and everything just to be able to play the game, that’s something special to see,” said Eduardo Rodriguez, who allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings and took a no decision.

Hernandez was basically robbed of baseball for the better part two entire seasons. He played 21 games in 2017 and none last year.

“Especially knowing what he went through after the surgery and what happened, and to get it re-done again to correct it and to constantly just battle back when certain days weren’t feeling right,” said Bradley. “I think it shows what kind of person [he is] and the tenacity that he has to be able to continue to fight back and knowing he has what it takes to play here.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.