Christian Arroyo makes impact felt in return as Red Sox hold on to top Angels, 5-4, in dramatic fashion

Christian Arroyo certainly made his impact felt in his first game back with the Red Sox since June 20.

Just hours after being activated from the injured list, Arroyo crushed a solo home run off Angels starter Jose Suarez in his first big-league at-bat in over two weeks.

Arroyo’s fifth homer of the season — a 431-foot blast to left-center field — provided the Sox with the early boost they would need to both spoil Shohei Ohtani’s 27th birthday and secure a series-opening 5-4 victory over the Halos at Angel Stadium on Monday night.

With the win, Boston improves to 54-42 on the campaignand 3-1 on their current West Coast road trip. They, again, remain 4 1/2 games up on the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Devers stays hot with fifth 3-hit game of season

Rafael Devers recently lost two RBI on account of a scoring change made by Major League baseball, but he wasted no time in getting them back on Monday, with interest.

Moments after Arroyo got the Sox on the board first, Devers followed by doubling his side’s early lead with a run-scoring single that brought in Marwin Gonzalez and made it a 2-0 game.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the slugging third baseman struck again, this time taking Angels reliever Dylan Bundy 405 feet deep to right-center field on a towering two-run shot that put Boston ahead 4-1.

Devers, whose fourth-inning homer was his 21st of the year, also singled in the eighth to bring his batting average on the season up to .290.

Santana’s fine fifth inning on both sides of the ball

Danny Santana was not originally in the Sox’ starting lineup on Monday, but he was forced into action when left fielder Marwin Gonzalez exited with right hamstring tightness in the third inning.

Put on the spot right away, Santana came through in his second trip to the plate in the top of the fifth, as he greeted newly-inserted reliever Tony Watson by ripping an RBI single up the middle that brought in Xander Bogaerts from second and made it a 5-1 contest.

After delivering with the run-scoring knock in the top half of the inning, Santana showed off his arm strength in the bottom half by gunning down Jose Rojas at home plate to prevent the Angels from scoring their second run of the frame off Sox starter Martin Perez.

More outfield assists for the best team in baseball in that department

The Red Sox came into the week leading all of baseball in total outfield assists with 26 of them on the season. Even with that number — and what happened in the fifth inning — in mind, the Angels still tried to run on the likes of Santana, Enrique Hernandez, and Hunter Renfroe, and it cost them.

Following Santana’s defensive display, Hernandez followed suit in the sixth when he snuffed out Max Stassi, who was trying to turn a single into a double, at second base for the second out of the inning.

With Santana and Hernandez tacking on two more, the Red Sox have now tallied 28 outfield assists this season to add on to their league lead in that particular category.

Perez the beneficiary of some outstanding defense

Not only did Martin Perez benefit from the arm strength of his outfielders, he also benefitted from their agility as well.

Making his his 17th start of the season for Boston on Monday, Perez ran into some trouble out of the gate by issuing a one-out walk and one-out single in the second inning that resulted in Los Angeles’ first run of the night crossing the plate on a sacrifice fly.

Things would have been worse for Perez were it not for Enrique Hernandez, who robbed Luis Rengifo of a two-run home run by making a leaping grab at the wall in deep center field for the final out of the inning.

The veteran left-hander settled in a bit from there, stringing together two scoreless frames before putting himself in a jam in the bottom half of the fifth.

There, with one out and one run having already scored, Danny Santana prevented the Angels from pushing anything else across by throwing out Jose Rojas at home.

Hernandez proceeded to do the same in the sixth, as he recorded the second out of the frame by gunning down Max Stassi at second, at which point Perez was given the hook by Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (56 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler wound up surrendering two runs (one earned) on eight hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work. He did not factor into the decision, but did lower his ERA on the season to 3.89.

Red Sox bullpen holds on

In relief of Perez, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he got out of the sixth by recording the final two outs of the frame in quick fashion.

Sawamura also came back out for the seventh and got the first two outs there, but not before serving up a solo home run to Rojas that trimmed the Angels’ deficit down to two runs at 5-3.

Josh Taylor was next to be dispatched, and the left-hander got Ohtani to fly out to retire the side and punched out a pair in a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth as well to extend his scoreless appearances streak to 26 consecutive games.

Ottavino vs. Ohtani

With Matt Barnes unavailable, Cora had to turn to right-hander Adam Ottavino to lock things down in the ninth.

A leadoff walk issued to old friend Jose Igleasias would come back to bite Ottavino, as he allowed the speedster to score on an RBI single off the bat of Rojas.

David Fletcher singled to advance the potential tying run into scoring position, and that brought the vaunted Ohtani up to the plate in a pivotal spot.

Ottavino, who infamously once said he would ‘strike out Babe Ruth every time’ he faced him, was tasked with going up against the modern-day Ruth in the form of the two-way phenom that is Ohtani.

After falling behind in the count at 3-1, Ottavino got Ohtani to sharply ground out to a perfectly-positioned Arroyo in shallow right field to preserve the 5-4 victory for his side while also notching his seventh save of the year.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Ohtani

Tuesday’s pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Angels will feature a pair of All-Stars going at it, with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and Ohtani, also a right-hander, doing the same for Los Angeles.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 9:38 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Shohei Ohtani and Christian Arroyo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo picks up third outfield assist of season in win over Mariners: ‘That throw was amazing,’ Alex Cora says

Alex Verdugo made a name for himself in his debut season with the Red Sox by leading the American League with seven outfield assists last year.

Just over three weeks into the 2021 campaign, and Verdugo is again showcasing not only his offensive talent, but his defensive ability as well.

The latest instance of the 24-year-old’s defensive prowess came in the fifth inning of the Sox’ eventual 6-5 victory over the Mariners on Friday night.

With two outs and one runner — Kyle Seager — on base in what at the time was a 3-2 game in favor of Boston, Mariners first baseman Evan White took a Hirokazu Sawamura splitter and scorched a 101 mph line drive off the Green Monster.

Starting in left field for Boston on Friday, Verdugo sprinted to his left at the crack of the bat, barehanded the ball on one hop, quickly turned, lined up his feet, and unleashed a missile to Rafael Devers at third that got there in plenty of time to snuff out a helpless Seager.

“That throw was amazing because probably he was feeling, ‘Let me go to second,'” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said during his postgame media availability. “But he had the presence of mind where he turned, he saw Seager right there, and he put it right on the money.”

What made the play even more impressive was that Verdugo could have just gone with a conservative approach and throw the ball back in to second base to prevent White from advancing into scoring position.

“He had the play right in front of him,” said Cora. “Sometimes runners take that for granted. But he saw it and he saw the window. I mean, it wasn’t a close play at third base. So he saw it, he trusts his arm, he’s very accurate, and he got him out.”

By nabbing Seager at third to preserve his side’s 3-2 lead, Verdugo picked up his third outfield assist of the season already.

He should have four based on what happened in the first inning Friday night, but just going back to the start of the 2020 season, no one in the American League has more outfield assists than Verdugo (10).

Verdugo, who has seen time at all three outfield spots this season, has stated before that he takes pride in his versatility and ability to play either of the three positions on any given night. He echoed that same sentiment again following Friday’s win when speaking with NESN’s Jahmai Webster.

“I pride myself with defense in all three outfield positions,” the Arizona native said. “I don’t feel like if I go to right, center, or left it’s any different. I feel like I play all three positions at a high level, and I take pride in that. I take pride in the versatility.

“Obviously, it would be nice to stick at one spot to maybe get some stuff, some awards, but at the end of the day, I do what my coach wants,” he added. “And he wants me bouncing around in the outfield, wants me at any of the three. Every day, it’s a blessing to have your name penciled in that lineup. I come out here to give it my all no matter what position, no matter where I’m at in the lineup.”

On the heels of a 3-for-5 showing at the plate in which he scored two runs on Friday, the left-handed hitting outfielder is now slashing .316/.365/.526 with three home runs, 13 RBI, and 16 runs scored through his first 20 games of the season.

Over his last seven games alone, Verdugo has posted a preposterous .440/.462/.640 slash line while primarily batting out of the two-hole.

“He’s gaining confidence in his game,” Cora said of Verdugo. “Offensively, you look up at the last at-bat, and he was up to .320, getting on base, hitting lefties… We like Alex, the way he’s playing. The fact that he can play all over the place and be really good, that’s a plus for us.”

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager Alex Cora says Alex Verdugo was team’s MVP in 2020

Even while serving his one-year suspension this past season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora still took the time to watch baseball, and the Red Sox, as a fan.

Though Cora acknowledged that watching the 24-36 Sox struggle from afar was tough, he also pointed out that he liked what he saw from some players in particular.

Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, and Alex Verdugo, all of whom made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, drew praise from the Sox skipper, with Verdugo getting the nod as the team’s most valuable player.

“Alex is a good player,” Cora said of the young outfielder when speaking with MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo Tuesday. “I saw him with the Dodgers, the previous year, a guy that brings a lot of energy to the equation on a daily basis. He can hit lefties, he can hit righties. I think he settled in the lineup. Defensively, he did an outstanding job for the team. For everything that is going on as far as like no fans and the protocols and how quote-on-quote uncomfortable it was for a team that didn’t play well, I do believe he was the best player on the team, the MVP.”

After coming over from Los Angeles as the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade back in February, Verdugo enjoyed great success at the plate with his new club. In 53 games, the 24-year-old posted a robust .308/.367/.478 slash line to go along with six home runs and 15 RBI.

On top of providing quality production at the top of the Boston lineup, Verdugo also dazzled defensively from both corner outfield positions. That much was evident by how he finished the year with seven outfield assists, tied for the most in baseball.

As Cora mentioned in the above quote, Verdugo got his first taste of playing at Fenway Park last July, when the Dodgers visited the Sox for a three-game series right after the All-Star break. In said series, the former second-round pick impressed with a pair of multi-hit games in the two games he started.

Those performances drew the attention of the likes of Cora, and although the Sox manager had already left the team by the time Boston acquired Verdugo from Los Angeles in February, he is very much looking forward to getting to know the exuberant 24-year-old better now that he is back.

“I actually spoke to him a few days ago,” Cora said. “What I saw is what I heard on the phone. Looking forward to working with him and making him a better player.”

How Cora develops relationships with Verdugo and other young players who were not on the team prior to his suspension should be something worth monitoring once spring training begins.

Alex Verdugo Picks up League-Leading Seventh Outfield Assist as Part of Red Sox’ 5-3 Win Over Nationals; Ron Roenicke Says ‘You’re Not Going To See Too Many Plays Better Than That’

Alex Verdugo picked up his major-league leading seventh outfield assist on Saturday and in doing so prevented the Nationals from scoring what would have been their fourth run of the night.

On the play, the 24-year-old fielded a two-out single off the bat of Trea Turner. With his momentum carrying him towards the left-center field gap, Verdugo gathered the ball while simultaneously inching closer to home plate.

“You got Turner at the plate swinging a hot bat,” Verdugo said. “Just through the whole game I was watching his swings and he was kind of on everything. For me, I was ready for him to put the ball in play. It just felt like whatever you throw him, he’s going to hit a line drive.”

Upon transferring the fielded baseball from his glove hand to his throwing hand, Verdugo cocked back while still on the run and unleashed a laser back towards the infield.

“I had a good jump on it, a line drive right over the shortstop’s head,” he added. “I got to it quick enough to feel like I was able to throw across my body and it was just a good throw.”

On just one hop, the outfielder’s bullet of a throw reached Christian Vazquez, who had more than enough time to nab Kurt Suzuki, who was trying to score all the way from second base.

Once that final out of the top of the fifth inning was recorded, Verdugo flexed a little bit as he darted back towards the Red Sox dugout after orchestrating what would turn out to be a pivotal play in Saturday’s 5-3 win for Boston.

“I keep my throws low and a lot of times [Xander Bogaerts and Jose Peraza] are doing the hard part,” Verdugo continued. “They got to cut it and get me a couple outfield assists. But, there’s a few where I have to throw it all the way there myself. The main thing for me is to try to keep my throws low, to try to blow up the cutoff man and throw it right through his chest. Sometimes they cut it, sometimes it goes through and we get them.”

One factor that aided the Arizona native in racking up yet another outfield assist is the fact that he throws with his left hand. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he was a legitimate pitching prospect coming out of high school, either.

“For me, it just helped that I’m a lefty, too,” said Verdugo. “With that specific play, it was my glove side, so all I had to do was backhand it and I had to make sure I worked one shuffle forward toward the plate… I had a good understanding of where I was on the field. From there, it was just stop my momentum, try to make a shuffle, and get rid of it as quick as I can.”

When asked about this specific play during his postgame media availability Saturday, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke seemed rightfully impressed with the arm strength Verdugo displayed while gunning down Suzuki earlier in the night.

“That’s as good a play as you can make,” Roenicke said. “To go over that far and get that ball like he did and still be under enough control to get something on it and one-hop it home. You’re not going to see too many plays better than that.”

With his league-leading seventh outfield assist, Verdugo now has more OF assists than 27 MLB teams so far this season. Pretty impressive.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo Picks up Team-Leading Fourth Outfield Assist in Sunday’s Loss To Yankees

The 2020 Major League Baseball season may just be 22 games young, but Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has already made quite the first impression with his new club.

After coming over in that blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in February, the 24-year-old is slashing .286/.342/.529 with seven extra-base hits, five of which being home runs, and eight RBI through his first 20 games with Boston.

More importantly, for this piece anyway, Verdugo leads the Red Sox in outfield assists and is actually in a three-way tie with the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier and the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds for the most outfield assists in baseball with four on the year thus far.

That fourth assist for Verdugo came in Sunday night’s loss to the Yankees, when after fielding a softly-hit fly ball off the end of Mike Tauchman’s bat in the third inning while on the run, the left fielder worked against his momentum, spun 180 degrees, cocked back, and threw an absolute dart to Jonathan Arauz to get Tauchman at second base.

Per Statcast, Verdugo’s throw to second came out of his left hand at a whopping 81 mph and got back to the infield in just over two seconds.

The play, as fantastic as it was, may not have made too much of a difference by the end of Sunday’s contest, but it just goes to show how impressive Verdugo’s arm strength truly is, which makes sense when you consider the fact that he was a legitimate pitching prospect coming out of high school.

According to FanGraphs, Verdugo has been one of the better defensive outfielders in the American League so far this season, as the Arizona native ranks 11th among qualified AL outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved (6) and 14th in UZR/150 (4.7).

When asked about this highlight play during his postgame media availability Sunday night, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said Verdugo’s throw was “outstanding.” Indeed it was.