Xander Bogaerts, Brayan Villarreal Have Eventful Red Sox Debuts During Tough Loss to Giants

Xander BogaertsIt was a tough night to make your Red Sox debut.

Two players saw their first-ever action in a Red Sox uniform during Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Giants, and both can anticipate having much better days.

The debuts were totally different in nature, as shortstop Xander Bogaerts made his much-anticipated major league debut while 26-year-old reliever Brayan Villarreal simply appeared in a game for the first time since joining the Red Sox. Neither debut went swimmingly, though, and both players deserve at least some of the blame for Tuesday’s defeat.

Bogaerts is going to be a superstar. He has all of the offensive talent in the world, and the 20-year-old hardly seems overwhelmed by the big league stage. But even the most talented players have off nights, and Bogaerts certainly would have liked to have made a better first impression Tuesday.

Bogaerts went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and two groundouts before being replaced by Stephen Drew in the sixth inning as part of a double switch. One of his groundouts came in the first inning with the bases loaded, and the other came with runners at second and third in the third inning. In other words, Bogaerts left five men on base while failing to cash in on two separate scoring chances. That’s costly in a game as tight as Tuesday’s.

To Bogaerts’ credit, the young infielder didn’t let his subpar at-bats hinder him in the field. He helped preserve a one-run lead in the fifth inning by charging a chopper over the mound, fielding it and quickly transitioning to his throwing hand before firing to first base to throw out Marco Scutaro. The play, which Bogaerts made look routine despite its level of difficulty, ended the inning and stranded Joaquin Arias at third base.

“I didn’t expect to be so relaxed,” Bogaerts said following his debut. “Maybe that’s why the [World Baseball Classic] had an effect. Playing in front of a big crowd. I would say that helped.”

While there was at least one bright moment in Bogaerts’ debut, the same can’t be said for Villarreal, who was called up Monday to replace reliever Rubby De La Rosa.

Villarreal — acquired as part of the Jake Peavy deal — was called upon with the bases loaded, two outs and the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning. (Good welcoming gift, huh?) The right-hander responded by throwing four straight balls — although the fourth pitch looked like a strike — to walk Scutaro and force in San Francisco’s winning run.

In Villarreal’s defense, it was a tough spot and one that he shouldn’t have been placed in, as John Farrell simply mismanaged the bullpen. But it was still a difficult beginning to the reliever’s Red Sox career, and he’ll now be forced to shake off the rough outing the next time he takes the mound.

Better days likely lie ahead for both Bogaerts and Villarreal. Then again, the same can be said for just about everyone on the Red Sox after a devastating loss in the Bay Area.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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