While the Red Sox welcomed Chris Sale back in grand fashion with a 16-2 romping over the Orioles at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, Yairo Munoz was making some history approximately 45 miles away at Polar Park in Worcester.
Coming into play on Saturday, Munoz had recorded at least one base hit in 34 consecutive games for Triple-A Worcester dating back to the beginning of July.
In compiling a 34-game hitting streak, Munoz had tied Dom DiMaggio for the longest such streak in Red Sox organizational history, as DiMaggio accomplished the feat at the major-league level during the 1949 season.
Facing off against the Syracuse Mets on Saturday, it took Munoz until the eighth inning to extend his streak after he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against opposing starter Adam Oller.
In the bottom of that eighth inning, with one out and runners at first and second in a 5-0 contest in favor of Syracuse, Munoz was matched up against Mets reliever Roel Ramirez.
On the very first pitch he saw from the right-hander following a mound visit, Munoz ripped a line-drive single to right field to advance both runners an additional 90 feet while etching his name into the record books.
At that moment, the 26-year-old received a standing ovation from the 7,166 who were on hand at Polar Park to witness some history.
Joey Meneses followed by belting a grand slam that cut Syracuse’s lead down to one run, but the WooSox’ comeback attempt fell short in the form of a 5-4 defeat.
Still, while his team may not have had the best of days, Munoz certainly had a memorable one — at least on an individual level.
“I feel really, really proud of myself and fortunate to be where I am right now, thankful to God and all the sacrifices made to be here today,” he told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison) through translator Pete Amalbert. “I’m just really fortunate to be here and have this record under my name.”
Over the course of his historic streak, Munoz has amassed 57 hits in his last 35 games and is now slashing .317/.345/.446 to go along with 14 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 31 RBI, 40 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, 13 walks, and 44 strikeouts across 77 total games (329 plate appearances) in his first season with the WooSox.
The Red Sox originally signed the versatile right-handed hitter to a minor-league contract last March, shortly after he was released by the St. Louis Cardinals and shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shutdown began.
After spending the majority of last summer at Boston’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, Munoz was called up in late August and impressed in his brief stint with the club, which was ultimately cut short due to a season-ending lower back strain.
In December, the 5-foot-11, 201 pounder had his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster taken away from him when he was designated for assignment and somewhat-surprisingly cleared waivers, resulting in him being outrighted to Worcester.
Because of that, the Red Sox were able to retain Munoz’s rights, which has paid off thus far considering what the Dominican native has accomplished at the minor-league level.
That being said, it’s no sure thing Munoz will make it back to the majors before season’s end, as he would need to be re-added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which is currently at full capacity.
Still, Munoz — a former top prospect who has proven he can hit at the major-league level (.278 hitter in parts of three seasons with the Cardinals and Red Sox from 2018-2020) while also playing multiple defensive positions — could provide value for a club looking to make a push for a division title during the final stretch of the 2021 regular season.
“One thing about Yairo, he brings energy on a daily basis,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Munoz earlier this month. “He has that bat-to-ball skill regardless of where the ball is, you know? It can be way up there or way down there and he’ll find barrel. We’re very pleased with what he’s doing. Not only because of the results, but because he’s doing the things he’s supposed to do — playing hard and doing the things that winning players do.”
“Obviously, we pay attention to everything that is going on and we’re very pleased with the way he’s going about it,” added Cora. “I’m not saying he’s on the radar or he’s not, but we are aware of what’s going on with him, and every report we get is a positive one.”
Regardless of the possibility that Munoz may or may not be on the verge of another call-up to the Red Sox, he will look to extend his hitting streak to 36 games in Worcester’s series finale against the Mets at Polar Park on Sunday afternoon.
(Picture of Yairo Munoz: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)