Red Sox Notes: Kiké Hernández Breaks Brutal Slump At Perfect Time

Hernández was in the midst of an 0-for-27 slump

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June 5, 2021

It’s a long season, and guys fall into slumps all the time. But Kiké Hernández was in the midst of a gnarly one entering Saturday night.

And it continued for his first few at-bats up until the eighth inning — but did he ever break the 0-for-27 skid he was on.

With two down in the eighth inning, the game against the New York Yankees tied at three and Rafael Devers standing on first, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora elected not to pinch-hit for Hernández.

He was rewarded, as Hernández ripped a 2-2 pitch down the left field line that scored Devers and jumpstarted a four-run eighth for the Red Sox, who would go on to win 7-3.

“He got on top of a fastball, he was short and quick on that one,” Cora said after the game over Zoom. “I know how much he’s been grinding, he’s been struggling and he wants to contribute. Today he struggled early on but he stuck with his plan, he’s been working on a lot of things.”

The timely hit came after getting bumped down in the lineup. With Hernández struggling to give the Red Sox production out of the leadoff spot, Cora moved Hernández down to the seventh spot.

If hitting him down in the lineup is the plan going forward remains to be seen. But at least for one night, it worked out.

Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees game:

— Garrett Whitlock has been a fun story to watch for the Red Sox, and on Saturday he got his first opportunity to make the Yankees regret not putting him on the 40-man roster eight months ago.

Whitlock, of course, was a Rule 5 Draft pick of the Red Sox back in December, as Chaim Bloom poached the righty from the Yankees. He made a strong impression in spring training and broke camp with the big club, and since has become a valuable part of the bullpen.

He got a high-leverage opportunity Saturday against his former organization. Whitlock replaced Eduardo Rodriguez with one out in the sixth, runners on second and third and Boston holding on to a 3-2 lead. He gave up a sacrifice fly to Gleyber Torres, which brought in the tying run (a tally that was charged to Rodriguez). However, he managed to strand Gio Urshela on third base to get out of the inning, then pitched a clean seventh.

“Whit came in and did an outstanding job. His stuff was phenomenal today,” Cora said. “We do believe his stuff plays and he’s a guy we can use in high-leverage situations. …

“This kid, since Day 1 he’s been great for us, and I’ll keep saying it: We’re very proud of him.”

— It has been a bumpy campaign for Rodriguez, but he was steady enough in the no-decision. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.

Perhaps the key to his success was his changeup keeping Yankees hitters off balance just days after Houston batters feasted on it.

“He worked hard in between starts,” Cora said. “We thought his changeup played like a sinker against the Astros. He made some adjustments and it paid off today, that was good to see.”

Getting Rodriguez right is an obvious priority for the Red Sox. Cora thinks they’re close.

“We do believe now, stuff-wise, he’s close to being where he was in 2019.”

— Bobby Dalbec hit a monster home run in the eighth inning to cap off the big frame.

All we’ll tell you is it had a 116 mph exit velocity and went 453 feet. We’ll let the video say the rest.

Thumbnail photo via Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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