BOSTON — This was supposed to be David Ortiz’s night.
Apparently no one told Xander Bogaerts.
The Red Sox paid tribute to Ortiz reaching 500 career homers in a special pregame ceremony Monday night, his first home game since reaching the historic milestone on Sept. 12.
Yet it was Boston’s 22-year-old shortstop who was the talk of the town after the contest. Bogaerts smacked a two-out, go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning to help lift the Red Sox to a wild 8-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
Bogaerts finished the night with five RBIs, a career high. The grand slam also was the first of his career, although he’s put up some pretty impressive numbers with the bases loaded this season: 10-for-24 with 25 RBIs, including four doubles and a triple.
“With the bases loaded he’s been very effective,” Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo said of Bogaerts after the game, “… and you just know in that situation he’s not going to come outside his approach. He’s going to stay within his game plan and have a good at-bat.
“Do you expect a grand slam? No. But it didn’t surprise us.”
With that, let’s dive into some more notes from the exciting win.
— About that pre-game ceremony for Ortiz: It was pretty darn cool.
After receiving his very own pair of boots and a commemorative plaque, Big Papi received quite the surprise when he was presented with a brand-new car.
That car drove onto the dirt near the Rays’ dugout and opened its doors to produce three Red Sox legends: Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and, of course, Pedro Martinez.
It’s never a party until Pedro shows up.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also made a guest appearance via the Fenway Park Jumbotron, sending Ortiz a video message congratulating him on reaching 500 dingers.
— Eduardo Rodriguez’s night got off to a pretty rough start, but the rookie showed poise in what likely was his final home outing of the season.
The 22-year-old left-hander surrendered three runs to the first four batters of the game, including a leadoff home run to Brandon Guyer. He allowed just four batters to reach base after that, though, lasting six innings and giving up a total of six hits while striking out four.
“First four batters get on, it looked like he might have had a little lapse or lull there with the exciting moment with David’s celebration,” Lovullo said of Rodriguez after the game.
“We don’t exactly know. But what he did after that was retire 16 of the next 20 batters and pitch through six innings, so he did a great job.”
— For the first time since June 9, the Red Sox aren’t the worst team in the American League East.
Boston entered Monday trailing Tampa Bay by half a game in the AL East standings and moved into fourth place in the division with the win. The Red Sox have won 11 of their last 16 games and are just five games under .500 for the first time since the All-Star break.
Boston is just one game behind the Baltimore Orioles for third place in the AL East and now is seven games out of the second AL Wild Card spot with 13 games remaining on its schedule.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
— The Fenway crowd gave a warm welcome to Daniel Nava — whom the Rays claimed off waivers on Aug. 5 — after Boston gave the former Red Sox outfielder a video tribute in between innings.
— Another ex-Red Sox almost cost Boston the game.
Rays outfielder Grady Sizemore, who began the 2014 season with the Sox, came on to pinch hit in the seventh inning and laced a two-run double to left field in the eighth that gave the Rays a 6-4 lead at the time.
— Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is “officially sick” and was sent home from the ballpark Monday, Lovullo said before the game. Sandoval missed the first two games of Boston’s weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays and left Sunday’s finale after feeling lightheaded.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (R) and former pitcher Pedro Martinez celebrate during a pregame ceremony to honor Ortiz's 500th home run prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
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