By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — About a month ago, Alex Verdugo launched a bomb into right field in the eighth inning of a game against Toronto, giving his team the lead. After connecting on that one, Verdugo slowly waltzed up the first base line, admiring his clutch delivery.READ MORE: Bill Belichick Turns Down Opportunity To Respond To Alex Guerrero: 'On Monday We'll Get To Next Week'
With a bat flip, a couple of celebratory hops, and some messaging to his dugout, it took Verdugo a solid 10 seconds to get to first base. After the game, Verdugo admitted that he was thankful the ball cleared the fence, thus avoiding a terrifically embarrassing moment.
“Yeah, I hit it, and I’m not gonna lie, I said to the guys, if that wasn’t going out, that would’ve been one of the most embarrassing moments ever,” Verdugo said that night. “You know, because right off the bat, I felt like I got that one good enough, I felt like I barreled it, and the right launch angle, everything. So if that didn’t go, I would’ve been devastated. I would’ve just crawled in a little corner and stayed there.”
Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to do that on that particular evening.
Unfortunately for him, that exact nightmare scenario played out on Wednesday evening at Fenway Park.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the fourth inning, with the Red Sox trailing 4-0 and in need of some sort of spark, Verdugo clubbed a high fly ball toward the Green Monster in left. The ball easily caught the upper portion of the wall and then bounced over the head of left fielder Jake Cave. Center fielder Nick Gordon finally retrieved the ball before throwing it in to second base.
Verdugo has decent speed, but even the Red Sox’ slowest runner could have walked into second base with an easy double after that particular flight path.
Yet when the broadcast cameras cut to Verdugo, he wasn’t at second. In fact, he was barely at first base. It wasn’t quite the 10-second jaunt to first base, but Verdugo clearly had spent some time admiring his shot, thus turning a no-doubt double into a long single.
It got much worse for Verdugo, though. Likely inspired to make up for his gaffe, Verdugo turned on the jets while rounding first base, clearly thinking about going for second. But he thought better of it, hit the brakes, and tried to return to first base. The relay throw from Andrelton Simmons, though, beat him there, and he was tagged out to end the inning.
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I expected him to be standing on second base, personally. pic.twitter.com/2nbIE3F1Av
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 26, 2021
For a Red Sox team that’s been kind of spiraling since late July, a mistake like that is indicative of the way things are going for Boston.
While it was Verdugo’s embarrassing nightmare come true, it wasn’t the only base running mistake made by the Red Sox in this particular game.
One inning prior, Kyle Schwarber sent a soft liner into shallow right field. With two outs, Christian Vazquez — the runner at second base — should have taken off on contact. Instead, he waited between second and third base to see if the ball would land before slowly jogging to third base.
Vazquez isn’t the fleetest of foot, so it’s possible that he wouldn’t have scored anyway on the play. But by hesitating and forgetting the situation, he nevertheless cost the Red Sox a chance to put some pressure on the Minnesota defense.
In the half-inning between Vazquez’s mistake and Verdugo’s blunder, the Twins doubled their lead from 2-0 to 4-0.
Manager Alex Cora said it was “not acceptable” when talking about the base running failures after the 9-6 loss in 10 innings.
“It’s an area where we’ve been bad,” Cora said. “We forgot the outs, we didn’t run out of the box. It’s probably a different game early on. Obviously you don’t want to do that, but it’s what I’ve been saying, it feels like sometimes we’re not doing enough coaching-wise. Because it just keeps happening. So yeah, it’s on them, it’s on us. I think as a group, we’re not doing a good job with that.”
Cora continued: “Those things you can control, right? Know the outs, run out of the box. So … just one of those that we need to, I mean, at this stage, it’s tough to watch, right? It’s not acceptable. We talk about it, but it keeps happening. And as a staff, we’ve gotta keep pushing. We’ve gotta keep pushing. We can’t give up.”
The manager continued to pin most of the blame on himself, stating how badly the poor fundamentals are hurting his team.
“Obviously for me, it’s very frustrating to see a team that I manage just be sloppy fundamentally. It’s hard. It’s hard,” Cora said. “And that’s my biggest battle, because I do believe the talent is here. But from my end, it’s kind of like, it’s what we’ve been talking about the whole time in spring training, it’s what we’ve been talking about the whole season, and it keeps happening. So we’ll keep working on it, and the hope is to get better. And hope, that’s not the right word. It should be better. But the hope is it gets better.”
In the case of Verdugo, the outfielder told the media on Monday that the Red Sox held a player’s-only meeting prior to that matinee game against Texas.
“Energy, that’s the biggest thing,” Verdugo said of the meeting. “The biggest thing to come from it was just we want to play energized. That’s it.”MORE NEWS: Celtics Reportedly Sign Garrison Mathews To Training Camp Roster
That helped fuel Monday’s extra-innings victory, and it might have helped Tuesday. But on Wednesday, Verdugo’s mistake showed that energy means very little if a team loses focus.