By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Seemingly any and all talk surrounding the Boston Red Sox right now has to do solely with the bad competition they’re facing. Occasionally, that discussion gets broken up with some conjecture about the sport of baseball dying. Through it all, though, the Red Sox keep winning baseball games.
And those victories, despite that larger conversation, aren’t just magically appearing in the wins column. The Red Sox are actually earning them. Nine in a row and 16 out of 19 games, to be exact.
Obviously, reeling off nine straight victories requires the efforts of many players. But now feels like a good time to spotlight the role Xander Bogaerts’ has played in this current run.
Overall, in the last seven games, Bogaerts is hitting .417 with a .545 on-base percentage. He’s hit two doubles, two triples and two home runs, driving in 13 runs while taking eight walks and striking out just twice. He’s also crossed the plate seven times, and his OPS in the last seven games is 1.462.
The numbers were enough to catch the attention of MLB, with Bogaerts earning “AL Player of the Week” honors. But despite the accolade, Bogaerts’ performance both at the plate and in the field has gone somewhat overlooked.
Take, for example, Saturday night’s game in Kansas City. That game largely came to be known for two things: David Price couldn’t get out of the fifth after hitting three batters, and the Red Sox won 15-4. But the Red Sox were trailing 3-0 in that game when they headed to the plate in the top of the fifth inning. And it was Bogaerts who stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Bogaerts laced a 2-1 offering from Brad Keller over the head of center fielder Alcides Escobar, driving in all three runs to give the Red Sox their first lead of the game. A stoic Bogaerts rolled into third base having delivered a much-needed spark.
The next day, Bogaerts again stepped to the plate in a big spot in the fifth. With one out and a runner on third in a 3-3 game, Bogaerts fouled off a 1-2 pitch before sending a Glenn Sparkman offering deep to center field, plenty deep enough to score the runner on a sacrifice fly and give Boston a 4-3 lead. Sparkman had just entered the game after a bases-loaded walk from Heath Fillmyer had tied the game. The Red Sox would hang on to that lead for the rest of the day, getting some more help with a Bogaerts RBI double. They eventually won 7-4.
The Red Sox returned home Monday for a three-game set with Texas, and though Bogaerts went 0-for-4 in the opener, he did make a rather nifty play to rob Delino Deshields of a hit:
Moving on to Tuesday night, the defensive gem most remembered from that Red Sox victory would be Mookie Betts’ robbing of a would-be home run for Nomar Mazara. But Bogaerts made a play in the field that was arguably more significant.
Bogaerts’ play came when Texas was batting with runners on the corners and nobody out against Jalen Beeks. To say Beeks has had a rough go of it as a big leaguer this year would be an understatement. He allowed six runs and 10 base runners in his MLB debut in early June, and he began his second-ever MLB appearance on Tuesday by hitting a batter and giving up a single. The Red Sox led 5-1, but the Rangers were threatening to jump right back into the game.
Fortunately for Beeks, he induced a comebacker off the bat of Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Unfortunately for Beeks, the pitcher unleashed a bad throw to second base to start a double play. Yet in one fluid motion, Bogaerts covered the second base bag, fielded Beeks’ throw on one hop and kept his left on the base before stepping off, gathering, and firing to first for the double play.
MLB’s somewhat arbitrary internet rules dictate that the play is not embeddable, but you really should give it a closer look on MLB.com. Had Bogaerts allowed that ball to skip into center field, the Sox would have led 5-2, likely with Texas having runners on the corners and nobody out. But Bogaerts ensured the crisis was avoided.
A run scored, but the threat was extinguished. The Red Sox went on to win 8-4. (Bogaerts had already hit a two-run triple to help build that initial lead, too.)
And on Wednesday, with the Sox looking for their third straight series sweep, Bogaerts went 3-for-4 with another triple, one RBI and a run scored. (That triple was more of a misplayed bloop single, but when you’re hot, good things happen to you.) And once again, he turned a terrific double play that helped the Red Sox avoid a lot of problems.
This one came with Chris Sale on the mound. Coming to the mound in the sixth following a two-RBI double by J.D. Martinez and the aforementioned bloop RBI triple by Bogaerts, the dominant lefty had gotten into a bit of trouble. He allowed a leadoff double to Elvis Andrus, followed by a single to Mazara. Sale then got Beltre to strike out, bringing up Rougned Odor with one out and runners on the corners in a 4-0 game.
Like Beeks the night before, Sale induced a comebacker. And also like Beeks the night before, Sale made an errant throw to second base. Sale’s throw wasn’t quite as bad, as it flared a bit toward the left-field side of the second-base bag. But with his momentum moving toward first base, Bogaerts leaned back to snare the ball while keeping his feet in position to rear back and let a throw to first base fly.
It was a close play at first, but Bogaerts got enough on his throw to turn two and end the threat.
That one’s also not embeddable, but it also requires a closer look on MLB.com.
The Red Sox went on to win 4-2, giving them their second nine-game winning streak of the season. The Red Sox haven’t done that since 1948.
Again, nine-game winning streaks require input from a dozen players every night. Sometimes, it’s obvious, like with Sale’s 12-strikeout night or Martinez’s tie-breaking double. Other times, certain performances can get overlooked.
On the season, Bogaerts is now hitting .283 but has an .880 OPS. That’s good enough for him to rank third among AL shortstops, behind only All-Stars Manny Machado (.957) and Francisco Lindor (.941). Bogaerts’ OPS is 53 points better than Jean Segura, who won the “Final Vote” for the last All-Star roster spot. Bogaerts also has twice as many home runs while having the exact same number of doubles (25) and triples (2) as Segura.
Nevertheless, Bogaerts won’t be heading to D.C. for the All-Star Game next week. But that’s hardly an issue for the Red Sox. If the team can continue to see performances from this Bogaerts, who looks as mature and composed at the plate and in the field as he ever has in his career, then the Red Sox are certain to keep racking up victories through the summer in what is sure to remain a tight AL East race.