BOSTON — One day after landing on the American League’s Final Vote ballot, Xander Bogaerts wasted no time in making his All-Star case.
The Red Sox shortstop provided the most important hit of the night Tuesday: a three-run single in the seventh inning that propelled Boston to a 4-3, come-from-behind victory over the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park.
Bogaerts fouled off three fastballs from flamethrowing Marlins reliever Carter Capps — whose odd, hop-step delivery makes his pitches even harder to connect on — before shooting a line drive into right field to complete a 2-for-4, three-RBI performance.
“Right man, right spot,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “Against a power arm with a very unorthodox delivery who has been dominant in the time that he’s been in the big leagues here with them. But to put up an eight-pitch at-bat like he did, fought off a number of fastballs, and the key, to me, in that spot was, we get to a 3-2 count, and Mookie (Betts) has got a chance to be on the move. That’s why we’re able to score three runs on a base hit.”
Bogaerts, who broke into the majors as one of Boston’s most highly touted prospects two seasons ago, has made major strides this year as one of the few bright spots on a Red Sox team that only recently began to show signs of life.
Perhaps no aspect of Bogaerts’ game has seen greater improvement than his performance with runners in scoring position. A miserable .153 hitter with men on second and/or third in 2014, Bogaerts has upped his average in such situations to .388 this season.
“You could say his entire game has improved dramatically,” Farrell said. “Defensively, offensively — I just think he’s grown up after a year in which he was challenged and learned a lot about himself along the way. (He’s) a guy that we talk about a lot lately in those key spots where he’s played with a lot of confidence, and no bigger moment than (Tuesday night).”
Will that moment help give the 22-year-old the boost necessary to separate him from the other four AL Final Vote contestants? Bogaerts has no way of knowing, but he’s excited to find out.
“I don’t know,” he said with a smile. “Red Sox fans tend to vote a lot for their guys, and hopefully they vote a lot tonight.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images