Red Sox manager Alex Cora wants the baseball world to put more respect on Hunter Renfroe’s name.
Playing in the 500th game of his major-league career Monday night, Renfroe came through with two incredibly important home runs as part of a 2-for-4 showing at the plate in the Red Sox’ 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Royals at Fenway Park.
In the fourth inning, Renfroe took Royals starter Danny Duffy 439 feet deep to dead center field on a 1-0 changeup for a 107.5 mph two-run homer that cut the Sox’ deficit down to one run at 5-4.
In the sixth inning of what at the time was a 5-5 ballgame, Renfroe delivered once more, this time depositing a hanging, 2-1 curveball from Royals reliever Josh Staumont 434 feet over the Green Monster for the go-ahead (and what would prove to be game-winning) home run.
“He’s on balance, he’s making good swing decisions,” Cora said of Renfroe late Monday night. “He got a changeup up in the zone, he hit it out of the ballpark. And then a hanging breaking ball. He’s been doing this for a while.”
By going 2-for-4 with a pair of homers, two runs scored, and three runs driven in in Monday’s win, Renfroe raised his batting line on the season to .272/.330/.473, which subsequently bring his OPS over .800 (.803) for the first time this year.
After signing a one-year, $3.1 million deal with Boston over the winter, the 29-year-old’s Red Sox career did not get off to the best of starts as he hit a dismal .167/.235/.250 in the month of April, leaving many to wonder if he was long for remaining on the major-league roster.
Since the calendar flipped to May, however, Renfroe has flipped the switch offensively — all while providing Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field, as has been the case since the start of the season.
Going back to May 1, the right-handed hitter is slashing an impressive .307/.362/.547 to go along with 10 home runs and 32RBI over his last 49 games (196 plate appearances).
Coming into play on Monday, Renfroe had been worth 1.3 fWAR since the start of May, per FanGraphs. That put him ahead of the likes of Alex Verdugo (0.5) and J.D. Martinez (0.3) over that time frame.
“You start looking at his numbers, the average, the RBIs, the home runs, the on-base percentage, the last two months he has been playing All-Star caliber baseball,” said Cora. “And we know what he can do defensively. The way he’s playing, people need to start recognizing him as one of our best players.
“He’s been huge for us,” added Cora. “We always talk about the four guys (Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Martinez, Verdugo), but what he’s doing, he has been amazing the last two months.”
For Renfroe, this rise in offensive production comes at a point in the season where he is getting consistent playing time, the weather is getting warmer, and — probably most importantly — he is healthy and locked in at the plate, as evidenced by his ability to take the ball to the opposite field when necessary.
“I feel good,” Renfroe said. “I like where I am right now. Swinging the bat well, seeing the ball well. I think that’s the biggest part, seeing the ball before you hit it. Seeing the ball as good as I have in a long time so I’ve just got to keep going, staying with my approach and staying with my routine in the cage and just stay healthy.”
(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)