Alex Verdugo has long awaited his first heroic moment at a jam-packed Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox outfielder received exactly that Friday night.
Verdugo stepped to the plate with pinch runner Danny Santana on second base and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth against the Toronto Blue Jays. The 25-year-old outfielder, playing in his second season with the organization, belted an RBI single off the Green Monster to lift the Red Sox to a 6-5, walk-off win.
Teammates stormed the field with Verdugo rounding first base while fans screamed and cheered in celebration. It was Verdugo’s first real Fenway moment after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from happening earlier.
“It was amazing. It was something special for sure,” Verdugo said on a postgame video conference. “It was one the those things where, when you’re in the box, you try your best to calm down, take deep breaths, relax, whatever. But when you have 25-to-30,000 people screaming and yelling and jumping up and down, it’s a little hard to kind of get that tunnel vision. But at the same times it’s amazing ’cause your heart starts racing. Everything feels good. What was sore before isn’t sore at that moment, you’re just kind of locked in. It was very special, very fun. To top off this and get the W, it was huge.”
Verdugo told NESN broadcast after the game moments like those are the things “we live for as players.”
The dynamic outfielder has been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve — Red Sox fans may remember one of his most popular web gems last year against, wouldn’t you know it, the Blue Jays — and he’s never shied away from that. He didn’t shy away from it Friday, either, as Verdugo stood just outside the batter’s box and waved as though his deep drive would clear the Green Monster with his last bit of help.
“I feel like I’m very emotional in the sense of I like to show them whether it’s anger, happiness, confusion,” Verdugo said with a smirk. “I like to wear my emotions on my sleeve. But when it comes to hitting, I’ve down this enough and it’s just — for me, hitting, it’s we all do our thing. We take a deep breath, we relax. My thing is if I just try to do less at the plate, try to simplify my thoughts, try to use the whole field like that, that’s when I have the big results.”
Friday’s result certainly was big enough for manager Alex Cora to get behind.
“He’s a good player. He’s a five-tool player. He’s a game-changer,” Cora said. “We got a good one.”
Verdugo went 3-for-4 with one walk, one run and one RBI in the series opener against the Jays.