Xander Bogaerts’ first home run of the season proved to be the difference maker in the Red Sox’ 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
With no outs and two runners on in the bottom half of the fourth, Bogaerts came to the plate for a second time after already doubling in his first at-bat against tough left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu two innings prior.
That double was actually more of a gift than anything considering the way it was played by Blue Jays left field Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but Bogaerts made sure to make his second hit of the night count.
On a 1-2, 91 mph slider from Ryu that was on the inner half of the plate, the 28-year-old was able to get his hands in front of the ball and wound up depositing said pitch 408 feet into the second row of Green Monster seats in left-center field. Per Baseball Savant, the ball left Bogaerts’ bat at a blistering 102.1 mph.
Bogaerts’ three-run blast put the Sox up 3-1 and would prove to be instrumental in the club’s 4-2 win over Toronto to improve to 12-6 on the young season.
“They needed a shutdown inning. They didn’t get it,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said in regards to the impact of Bogaerts’ homer. “It was a good swing. That was a good effort against a good pitcher. That guy, he’s very tough. He’s got a good breaking ball, a good changeup. But we hung in there with him and we were able to score some runs.”
The fact that Bogaerts was able to hit a home run on a pitch that was relatively up and in was impressive. There’s no doubt about that. With that being said, though, that ability is something the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner has regularly put on display over the years. Just ask his longtime teammate — and Tuesday’s starter — Eduardo Rodriguez.
“I’ve been here, what? Like six seasons, I think. And I’ve been seeing him hitting balls like nobody can hit it,” Rodriguez said of the Aruban-born shortstop. “I know he’s a really special guy. I can’t even explain to you how good he is. I’ve been watching him too much. Hitting balls out of the ballpark, both sides of the field, middle of the field. I know every time he steps up to the plate something good is going to happen. That’s how special he is.
“I love the way he plays all the time, the way he goes up there,” added Rodriguez. “After he hit that homer, he comes to me and says, ‘I got you. Go out there now and do your thing.’ That’s something that I really appreciate from him every time I’m pitching and he’s doing things like that.”
Rodriguez said he expects 35 home runs out of Bogaerts this season, but Bogaerts himself was just happy to get the first one out of the way, which is something Cora actually foresaw moments before it happened in the bottom of the fourth on Tuesday.
“I think that whole inning, Alex Cora predicted, to be honest with you,” Bogaerts recalled during his postgame media availability. “I remember him saying that the guy’s going to get a hit, J.D. [Martinez] is going to get a hit, and I’m going to hit a two-run homer. So he kind of predicted that whole inning to be honest. You guys got to see what’s up with AC and those predictions with his mind and stuff like that.
“I was like, ‘You talking about me hitting a home run? I don’t have a home run at all,'” joked Bogaerts. “And he’s talking about me hitting a homer.”
Following a 2-for-4 showing at the plate with two extra-base hits on Tuesday, Bogaerts is now slashing a scorching .393/.439/.557 to go along with that one homer and seven RBI through his first 16 games of the year.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)