BOSTON -- Even as the defending World Series champions stumble towards the finish line, Xander Bogaerts continues to be a beacon of better things to come.
On Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, toward the end of a career year, the Red Sox shortstop went 3-for-4 with a home run and 2 RBIs in the face of an 9-4 defeat at the hands of Baltimore.
With his team trailing, 2-0, Bogaerts followed up a first-inning leadoff single by Jackie Bradley Jr. with a tremendous 414-foot home run, per Statcast, to tie things up.
Bogaerts’ 33rd big fly of the season, which had an exit velocity of 103.1 mph, departed the ballpark over the Green Monster seats in left field.
“To see that kind of effort in Game 161, when everybody knows that we’re going home after the game tomorrow, is great,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “That’s why we made the commitment. That’s why we’re very confident that he’s going to keep doing these things for a long, long time here in Boston.”
It was the 85th extra-base hit for Bogaerts this season, tying him with Nomar Garciaparra (1997 and 2002) for the most extra-base hits by a Boston shortstop.
J.D. Martinez followed suit with a solo shot, his 36th home run, giving the hosts a 3-2 lead and their 10th back-to-back homers of the year, the last coming courtesy of the same two bats in Anaheim on Sept. 1.
Bogaerts’ .309 batting average pulls him into the team lead going into the final day of play and puts him on the brink of becoming just the third shortstop in league history to hit over .300 on the season while collecting 85-plus extra base hits and 115-plus RBIs (Alex Rodriguez in 1996, 2001, ‘02 and ‘07; Garciaparra in ‘02).
On the year, the 26-year-old has set career highs in home runs, extra-base hits, RBIs (116), doubles (52), on-base percentage (.383), slugging (.556) and OPS (.940).
“That’s a kid that everybody has grown to love here,” Cora noted. “He got here in ’13 and he did some outstanding things in the playoffs. Now he’s not the tall lanky kid from ’13; now he’s a strong man, he’s a force at this level and he’s taking pride of a lot of things.”
“I’m proud of the way I went out every day and gave it all I have to try and help the team, but it didn’t work out,” Bogaerts said.
The Red Sox's lead would be short-lived, as Boston starter Jhoulys Chacin served up home runs in each of the three innings that he appeared, allowing Baltimore to regain control of the game in the third before departing.
“The same thing that he struggled with the Brewers -- fastball location,” said Cora. “You saw it right away, the first pitch to [Jonathan] Villar was supposed to be down and away, it was right in the middle. The home run to [DJ] Stewart, the same deal. If you live down in the zone, you better have great action and you better hit your spots.”
It was the third straight appearance in which the Red Sox hurler had allowed four earned runs.
Despite a third straight loss and the looming air of a baseball-free October, Bogaerts is looking to continue his efforts to the bitter end for his teammates.
“We have one more game to go, we know Eddie’s [Eduardo Rodriguez] going for a big 20 [wins] tomorrow,” Bogaerts said. “I think we need to come out tomorrow with a chip on our shoulder and try to get the job done.”