Jonathan Araúz wasn’t supposed to be the one to lead the Boston Red Sox to victory in Cleveland on Friday. He wasn’t even supposed to be in Ohio at all.
Araúz was a last-minute call-up by the Red Sox after the team learned Kiké Hernández tested positive for COVID-19. With Christian Arroyo designated as a close contact, Boston had two holes on the roster — and that’s how Araúz and Yairo Muñoz ended up racing down I-90 in a desperate attempt to make it in time for first pitch.
So yeah, it was pretty cool when Araúz hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to put the Red Sox ahead of the Indians, 4-3 — right after working a full count when he struggled to lay down a bunt.
“It meant a ton,” Araúz said after the game through skills coordinator Rey Fuentes. “I’m very aware of what happened today and what happened to the team and where the team was at that moment. It’s my first home run of the year. The combination of the day, my first home run, put the team ahead late in the game, it was a huge home run for me. I know I’m not going to forget this home run.”
The 23-year-old got his chance in 16 earlier games with Boston this year, hitting just .207 with seven strikeouts and just one extra-base hit, a double. He came to life in the exact moment that the Red Sox needed someone, anyone to.
But it really shouldn’t have come down to that.
The Red Sox were up against Logan Allen, who started the year with the Indians but now has made just three starts since April. In seven big-league games this season before Friday, Allen had a 9.13 ERA. On Friday, he held Boston to one hit — a Bobby Dalbec double — over six innings.
In relief, Alex Young and his 6.51 ERA kept the Red Sox hitless in the seventh frame. The eighth-inning action came against James Karinchak, who had the lowest ERA the Red Sox faced on the night before Blake Parker closed things out.
Yes, the Red Sox lineup was missing a significant amount of players that really round out the 2021 team, with Hunter Renfroe on the bereavement list, Hernández on the COVID list and a slumping J.D. Martinez given the night off.
But when Kyle Schwarber, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers combine to go 0-for-12, a three-hit night and last-chance home run are exactly what to expect. Luckily, Araúz was ready to go.
Here are other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Indians game:
— Postgame interviews allowed us to construct a timeline of this wild afternoon. Cora said Araúz and Muñoz arrived in Cleveland between 5 and 5:30 p.m. ET, so less than two hours before game time. The eventual hero of the night said he received the call that he would be on the move around 1 p.m., then was told about an hour before his arrival that he would start at second base.
“Everything happened really quick,” Araúz said after the game.
— Despite the positive COVID test, Cora said in his pregame press conference that the Red Sox were one of the “most aggressive” teams in Major League Baseball when it comes to testing.
— As for a long-term solution while Hernández and Arroyo are recovering, Cora said he may have to consider speeding up the rehab of Danny Santana. He had a great night for Double-A Portland on Friday, so maybe that’s not the worst thing.
— Schwarber made his long-awaited debut at first base, though he didn’t do anything at the plate. He went 0-for-4, though he did play a clean game on the bag. We’ll read this glass as half-full for now.
— The series continues Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET. Nathan Eovaldi (10-8, 3.72 ERA) will get the ball for the Red Sox while the Indians will go with Cal Quantrill (4-2, 3.04 ERA).