Xander Bogaerts shows signs of life at the plate with clutch performance against Kansas City
|07.19.14 at 1:51 am ET|
There seemed to be only one emotion conveyed on Xander Bogaerts‘ face as he rounded the bases following his fourth-inning home run Friday night:
After trudging through a miserable 14-for-121 slump that sapped his average from .304 on June 3 down to .235 on July 13, Bogaerts finally broke through his six-week downturn in a major way, blasting a timely two-run home run and reaching base a total of three times en route to a 5-4 Red Sox victory over the Royals.
It seemed as if the Red Sox were on their way to another disappointing defeat Friday night, trailing Kansas City by a score of 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning before Bogaerts stepped to the plate.
With Daniel Nava leading off first base, Bogaerts turned on a 85 mph cutter from Royals starter James Shields, depositing the 1-1 offering into the center field bleachers for his seventh home run of the season, cutting the deficit to just one run.
It was Bogaerts’ first home run since June 13 against the Indians, snapping a career-high 89 at-bat homerless spell. That same home run against Cleveland also marked the last time that Bogaerts had gotten an extra-base hit before Friday’s contest.
“That was pretty good, the inside of the ball,” Bogaerts said after the game. “I was trying to hit something the opposite way, my bat just rolled over a lot of stuff and that’s a bad feeling. But I’ll take that every day.”
Bogaerts, whose round-tripper helped pull Boston right back into the game , was the first of two home runs in the inning, as Jonny Gomes lofted a sinker from Royals southpaw Scott Downs into the same area of the bleachers for a two-run, pinch-hit home run that would give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead that they would not relinquish.
It was a refreshing sight to see Bogaerts play a key role in the Red Sox victory. After all, correlating success to the 22-year-old slugger’s performances as of late has been hard task to accomplish.
For most of the first half of the season, Bogaerts was every bit the player that both wowed many during Boston’s World Series run in 2013 with his disciplined approach at the plate and was viewed as a favorite to capture the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
As late as June 7, Bogaerts was fourth in the American League in on-base percentage (.387) and second amongst AL rookies in batting average (.299) and first in hits, doubles and walks.
What followed was the roughest stretch that the young third baseman/shortstop has ever endured during his brief tenure in the majors.
Over the next 29 games following June 7, Bogaerts posted a discouraging line of .103/.140/.131 with just 5 RBIs. His usual refined and patient approach at the dish was also lost, as Bogaerts struck out 32 times during that run - accounting for over a quarter (29 percent) of his at-bats during that period of time -while only walking five times.
If tonight’s performance serves as any indication, it appears that Bogaerts may finally begin to emerge from his recent spell. However, Bogaerts said that he did not change his approach at the plate both during the last month and half and on Friday.
“I just go out there and try to play the best I can and help the team win, that’s all I try to do,” Bogaerts said.
“Hopefully this gives him a chance to breathe a little bit,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It’s the first extra-base hit in a while and hopefully it allows him to see some of the work that he’s been doing pre-game and the video work and the countless conversations with [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn], with [assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez]. To see it play out with the timely home run, it should be a boost for him.”
Friday’s encouraging win does not take away the Red Sox still have the odds stacked against them in terms of playing October baseball this season. Boston still sits8 1/2 games behind Baltimore and have just a 7.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.
However, a rejuvenated Bogaerts might just be the trump card the Red Sox need to make a memorable postseason push.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to gain a lot of ground and we’ll just take it day by day, game by game and hopefully we come out on top,” Bogaerts said.
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