Xander Bogaerts joked earlier this week about how he had yet to hit a homer this season.
Following the Red Sox’ 6-5 victory over the Mariners at Fenway Park on Friday night, the star shortstop has now hit three home runs in his last four games.
Bogaerts’ third big fly of the 2021 campaign came right away in the bottom half of the first inning, when after his side fell behind early, the right-handed hitter crushed an 0-1, 82 MPH slider from M’s starter Yusei Kikuchi 409 feet to deep left field to score himself as well as Alex Verdugo to put the Sox up 2-1.
J.D. Martinez followed suit in the third, as the vaunted slugger picked up his team-leading seventh home run of the season — this one being a solo shot — by depositing another Kikuchi slider 343 feet to the opposite field. 3-1.
After the Mariners got a run back in the fourth, the Red Sox put the pressure on by loading the bases with the first three batters who reached base off Kikuchi to lead off the fifth, but could only get two runs out of it when Martinez grounded into a run-scoring double play and Bogaerts collected his third RBI on a hard-hit single that drove in Enrique Hernandez.
Verdugo scored another run for the Sox in the seventh following a leadoff single off Mariners reliever Ljay Newsome. Another base hit from Martinez advanced the outfielder to second, and he then came around to score on a fielding error to make it a 6-2 contest.
Verdugo records third outfield assist of season
In addition to enjoying a 3-for-5 day at the plate with two runs scored out of the two-hole, Verdugo also notched his third outfield assist of the season already on Friday.
Starting in left field, the 24-year-old recorded the final out of the top half of the fifth inning by gunning down Kyle Seager at third base to preserve what was then a 3-2 lead for Boston.
Perez can’t make it through four innings
Making his fourth start of the season for the Red Sox in this one was Martin Perez.
The veteran left-hander dealt with his fair share of control issues in the process of surrendering two runs on four hits, four walks, and three strikeouts over just 3 2/3 innings of work. Only 46 of the 83 pitches Perez threw on Friday went for strikes.
Although he was not involved in the decision, Perez did see his ERA on the season drop from 5.93 to 5.71. His next start should come against the Rangers sometime next week.
Red Sox bullpen sees it through
With Perez unable to go deep into Friday’s contest, the Red Sox bullpen was put to the test beginning in the fourth inning.
Hirokazu Sawamura took over for Perez, recorded the final out of the fourth by fanning Mitch Haniger, then picked up two more strikeouts in a scoreless fifth which would later result in him notching his first winning decision in the majors.
Garrett Whitlock took over from there, and the Rule 5 pick continued to impress by hurling 2 1/3 scoreless frames of relief while scattering two hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts before getting the hook with one out and two runners in scoring position in the eighth.
Adam Ottavino was the one who got the call to take over for Whitlock, and the veteran reliever escaped the jam by punching out the only two Mariners he faced to retire the side.
With a 6-2 lead to protect going into the ninth, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes took over and was fortunate enough that he had a four-run cushion to work with.
That being the case because after walking J.P. Crawford — Seattle’s No. 9 hitter — and giving up a one-out single to Ty France, Barnes proceeded to serve up a three-run bomb to Seager, which cut the Mariners’ deficit from four runs to just one.
Barnes did manage to retire the next two hitters he faced in relatively simple fashion, and the Sox were able to come away with a 6-5 home victory and improve to 13-8 on the season because of it.
Next up: Flexen vs. Eovaldi
Saturday’s pitching matchup will feature a pair of right-handers, with Chris Flexen getting the ball for Seattle and Nathan Eovaldi doing the same for Boston.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)