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Xander Bogaerts: ‘If I get [Joaquin Benoit] back I’ll probably do damage to him’

10.13.13 at 1:30 am ET
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Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino took a few moments after his team’s 1-0 loss to commend his clubhouse neighbor.

“Great at-bat, bro,” he told Xander Bogaerts. “It was awesome to watch.”

Bogaerts had the final at-bat of the game against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, making the right-hander work for seven pitches (thanks in part to a 2-2 foul ball on a hard slider) before popping out on a 3-2 changeup for the final out of the Red Sox’ 1-0 loss. But even after he stranded Quintin Berry on second base as the potential game-tying run, Bogaerts felt confident in the approach he took and the fight he presented against the Tigers closer. Indeed, Bogaerts suggested that he already recognized how valuable a teaching tool that single at-bat already was, less than an hour after the final pitch of the game.

“I definitely feel like I’ve learned from that at-bat till now. I think my confidence has grown so much. Laying off so many tough pitches against a good closer like that in a big situation, my confidence level is pretty high for the next time up,” said Bogaerts. “I think he only threw me like two fastballs — first pitch for a strike and then all off-speed. I laid off some tough pitches. If I get him back I’ll probably do damage to him because I probably know what he has now.

“In a big situation like that, to be under control, lay off some tough pitches like that, it wasn’t easy. I’m really happy with myself for that,” he added. “[It was a] good at-bat. I laid off some tough pitches that he threw me, some good pitches. He had a slider but I think it was more like a cutter because it cut too fast. Good game, tough loss but we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”

Bogaerts said that he went to the plate with the mindset not to try to do too much, to avoid swinging for the fences and instead a) giving Berry an opportunity to steal and b) finding a way to drive him in. He controlled his pulse even at a time when Fenway was ready to explode after Daniel Nava finally broke up Detroit’s no-hitter with one out in the ninth.

“The fans were really into it,” said Bogaerts. “I really wanted to do something for the fans — not try to hit a home run, just a base hit would have been good, tied up the game and we would have gone on from there.”

In hindsight, there was a pitch in the at-bat that Bogaerts would have loved to have attacked — but that he could not. After Bogaerts took a first-pitch fastball for a ball, he let the second pitch of the plate appearance — also a fastball, this one down the gut — pass by in order to permit Berry a chance to take second. It was, Bogaerts suggested, a necessary sacrifice, albeit a regrettable one in that he didn’t see another fastball in the at-bat.

“Berry’s got to get in scoring position. I can’t go up there, swing and get a foul ball or ground ball and he’s not in scoring position. [But] that was a really good pitch to hit, man — a fastball, just had to let it go,” lamented Bogaerts. “[It was] one of the two fastballs. The first was a ball and that was right down the middle. But he left to steal, so I had to let it pass so he could be in scoring position. That was definitely the pitch that I missed, so it’s all right. [But then Benoit's] 3-2 changeup, that’s pretty tough.”

There will be, it would seem, other opportunities to come for the 21-year-old, who has demonstrated convincingly already his ability to keep the game under control even on the postseason stage. That was true when he walked twice in the late innings against Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the ALDS, and it was true once again on Saturday.

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