The Red Sox got a defensive boost from two of their newest, most versatile position players in Sunday’s 5-3 victory over the Mariners at Fenway Park.
In the top half of the third inning, Kyle Seager laced a fly ball off Eduardo Rodriguez that traveled 370 feet off his bat to right-center field.
Kiké Hernández, who started in center field for Boston on Sunday, had been playing Seager pretty straight up and started headed towards the triangle as if that is where the ball was going to end up.
Instead, a strong gust forced Hernández to make a quick adjustment while he was tracking the ball.
Rather than continue towards the triangle, he took a sharp right turn in front of the Red Sox bullpen and made a shoestring catch by the JetBlue sign in right-center for the final out of the inning.
“It’s very windy at the ballpark,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the conditions at Fenway during his postgame media availability. “It’s playing different than two years ago or three years ago. It feels so windy out there. When he hit that ball, Kiké said that ball was going toward the triangle and it just stopped in the air and he had to reroute and make the play.”
Hernandez, who made his 15th start of the season in center for Boston on Sunday, was originally slated to start at second base in Cora’s initial lineup.
Alex Verdugo was to start in center field in the series finale, but he was scratched by Cora about an hour before first pitch on account of the hamstring cramp he sustained on Saturday and the wet conditions on a rainy Sunday.
Because of that, Hernandez moved from second base to center field in Cora’s lineup, while Christian Arroyo got the start at second.
The 29-year-old went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs run scored out of the leadoff spot for the Sox to close out the weekend. He is currently slashing .250/.295/.432 with three home runs and eight RBI through 22 games played thus far.
In the top half of the eighth inning, right-hander Adam Ottavino took over for Rodriguez and walked the first man he faced in Mitch Haniger with his team up two runs at 5-3.
On his very next pitch, though, Ottavino got out of a potentially-binding jam by inducing soft contact off the bat of Ty France.
France dribbled a grounder to the left side of the infield and while playing the ball on a bounce, Marwin Gonzalez ran in, fielded the ball with his glove-hand, and nonchalantly flipped said ball with his glove-hand to Arroyo at second base to start an impressive 6-4-3 double play.
“Marwin played excellent shortstop,” Cora said.
Of the 18 starts Gonzalez has made so far this season, only three have come at shortstop. The other 15 have come at first base (six), second base (four), third base (two), left field (two), and right field (one).
On the play in which Gonzalez was involved in his ninth twin killing of the year, Cora also liked what he saw from the second baseman who helped turn it in Arroyo.
“Not an easy play for the second baseman because you don’t expect that flip,” said the Sox skipper. “He stayed with it and was able to turn it.”
The fact that Arroyo was still playing after getting drilled in the left hand by a 93.8 mph fastball in the first inning was a somewhat awe-inspiring feat on its own.
The 25-year-old was clearly in discomfort after taking that heater off his glove hand, but he remained in the game until its conclusion. The X-rays he got on his hand came back negative.
“I told him just don’t worry about your at-bats,” Cora said. “If you can play defense, just grind it out, and he did.”
(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)