Red Sox Notes: Alex Verdugo’s First Boston Home Run Came At Crucial Time

Alex Verdugo unleashed a career-building swing at a crucial time.

The Boston Red Sox right fielder belted a two-run home run in the fourth inning of the team’s 5-0 shutout victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.

It was his first ball to leave the yard while wearing a Red Sox uniform.

“It felt amazing, man,” Verdugo told reporters on a video call after the game. “… It felt really good to finally be able to stay on one, stay through it, and get one out.”

While the individual milestone obviously is a nice aspect of it, Verdugo explained what it meant for the team at the time.

“I think my biggest thing for me is just to help the team out,” Verdugo said. “It was a tie game, and just to get up there and give us a 2-0 lead, kind of give the pitcher, give everybody a little breather. It’s like, ‘We got some room to work.’ That was my biggest thing.

“I came here to contribute,” Verdugo continued. “I play the game hard and want to contribute in everything that I do. So, to finally be able to help out and actually get a couple runs for us, it’s huge.”

It gave the Red Sox, who frequently have found themselves trailing in the early innings, a lead. And Boston held onto it throughout the final seven-plus innings.

“Yeah, that was big. It doesn’t seem like we have leads at all, so to get a lead there early, Martin (Perez) throwing up a couple more zeros was huge,” manager Ron Roenicke said on a video call with reporters.

“Well, he (Verdugo) was pretty happy, I’ll tell you that, when he came to to dug out,” Roenicke said of Verdugo’s home run. “And it was huge. At the time it was huge. I thought (Ryan) Yarbrough was throwing the ball fantastic, and next thing you know we have two runs on the board. So, any time we do that, and the players know it, they feel what’s going on, and to get that lead, I’m sure (Verdugo) felt pretty good about that.”

Verdugo said he didn’t get the ball that went into right field, but he’s hoping “there’s many more to come.”

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Here are some other notes from Wednesday’s win:

— Perez walked the tight rope during his five-inning start, frequently making his biggest pitches when the Rays had runners on base and threatening the Sox lead.

The right-hander expressed why he believed he was able to do so as he allowed just four hits over five innings with no earned runs.

“I think the key was that I didn’t lose my focus with runners on base,” Perez told reporters on a video call after the game. “I was available to throw the pitch that I wanted and where I wanted to. In the third inning, against (Yandy) Diaz, throw a sinker down and away, ground-ball double play. Then throwing to the shortstop, cutter in, double play again. So, the key was I never lose my focus and I was fine.

“I always have in my mind they’re not going to score runs on me. I have to compete, I have to stay on and throw the pitch where I wanted. … I think focus was a big key for me tonight.”

— Around the clubhouse, one common theme was displayed: Wednesday was a big win for a team who desperately needed one.

“I think it was big. It definitely was,” Red Sox first baseman Michael Chavis, who had three hits, told reporters. “The first loss in Tampa, that first game, it sucked. But we have a good ball club. We do. We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of fun in the clubhouse and everything like that.

“So, just having Martin go out there and start the game the way he did, he went out there and he shoved. He didn’t show any hesitation, he wasn’t scared at all. So, just having him set the mood like that, I think that’s kind what set the tone for the rest of the game. And I think we just kind of cruised through.”

— It also was among the most well-balanced games the Red Sox have played this season.

The bullpen did not allow a hit, Perez put together a sound start, the defense got the Sox out of trouble with double plays in key moments and the bats tallied 10 hits.

“Today, just to come out there, get an early lead and hold It the whole game. Great job by our pitching staff,” Verdugo said. “Today, I think the defense, the offense, the pitching, we were all firing on the right cylinders.”

— The Red Sox will be off Thursday before a seven-game home stand, which begins with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

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