Xander thinks he can elevate game to new level
BOSTON -- Just over a quarter of the way into the season, Xander Bogaerts already has more than half as many home runs as he hit in 2017.
The shortstop unloaded for a three-run shot off a light stanchion above the Green Monster to give the Red Sox a six-run lead in the bottom of the fifth inning en route to a 6-2 win against the Orioles on Thursday night.
It was No. 6 on the season for Bogaerts, who hit 10 during an inconsistent 2017 campaign.
Bogaerts also hit a game-breaking, three-run homer in Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Athletics.
The blast on Thursday was off a 94.9-mph fastball from Orioles righty Kevin Gausman, who was then removed from the game before Bogaerts had even touched home plate.
"I mean, I don't know if you can do that or you can't. I wasn't worried either," said Bogaerts. "But I kind of saw him as I was rounding third, you know? At that time, I was focused on touching the bases and getting my home run. But I saw him, I didn't think anything of it, but afterwards, the guys, they've never seen stuff like that happen on a daily basis. That was weird."
If it isn't already enough for opponents of the Red Sox that J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts are both on tears, Bogaerts is starting to look like the guy who got off to a blazing start to the season before suffering a fractured talus bone in his left ankle on April 8.
"One thing that got my attention when I finally was able to talk to him was how physical he is," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "I was with Carlos [Correa] the whole year last year. These guys at shortstop now, they're a lot different.
"Obviously Manny [Machado], Xander, Carlos, even Francisco [Lindor], who is shorter but a strong individual, so you talk to the guys, you talk to Mookie and Jackie [Bradley Jr.] and they mention that throughout the Minor Leagues, Xander, the sound of his bat was different. In batting practice, he'll put on a show.
"We feel like he can do this consistently. It's just a matter of getting his pitches in the zone and driving. So far, he's done a good job with it."
A veteran at the young age of 25, Bogaerts thinks he can still take his game to another level.
"I think there's always room for improvement," said Bogaerts. "Obviously having J.D. in front of me, I mean, it is impressive what he does. I'm not kidding you. You've got to be ready to hit right away."
It might not be a coincidence that Bogaerts seems primed to have his best season now that he is united with Martinez, who belted his 13th homer of the season in the first inning.
"I think he influences everyone launching," said Bogaerts. "He launches balls over the wall on a daily basis. It's routine for him. I talk with him whenever I need or feel something. He obviously gives me advice. It's not that I have to do whatever he says. We're different types of hitters, obviously. He hits 40 [homers], but whenever I'm not feeling good or I'm doing something weird, I go to him and he helps me out a lot."