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Closing Time: Xander Bogaerts, Joe Kelly make mark in Red Sox’ win over Cardinals

08.07.14 at 12:23 am ET
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For Xander Bogaerts, Wednesday might have marked the beginning of an important road back. In one of his most impactful games since June, the 21-year-old drove in both Red Sox runs while playing strong defense at shortstop to lead his team to a 2-1 win over the Cardinals.

Bogaerts slammed an RBI double to the fence in deep left-center with two outs in the top of the fourth to tie the game, 1-1, then lined a bases-loaded, no-out, first-pitch sac fly to center in the top of the ninth. The ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields has been increasingly evident in recent games, with Bogaerts once again coming closer to resembling the dazzling performer who looked so impressive last October in St. Louis and throughout the postseason.

With his two run-scoring plate appearances, Bogaerts shed some areas of season-long futility. He entered the night hitting .156/.239/.219 with runners on base and two outs prior to his double; in 17 plate appearances with runners on third and less than two outs, he had been 1-for-15 with just three RBIs (two on sac flies), no walks and three strikeouts before his game-winning sac fly on Wednesday.

On defense, he made a pair of solid defensive plays in the second inning, initiating a double play with a quick transfer and flip on a slow roller and then making an inning-ending diving play on a ball to his left for a force at second that kept a run off the board.

In a season where wins and losses will mean little in their own right over the next two months, the sight of Bogaerts serving as a game-changer en route to a win was nonetheless significant.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— Right-hander Joe Kelly impressed in his Red Sox debut. Though he struggled at times with his command while issuing four walks (the fifth time in his career that he’d reached that dubious plateau), he recorded 15 of his 21 outs on the ground in delivering seven innings in which he permitted just one run. Kelly permitted three hits — two singles and a double — wile shutting down his former teammates.

His seven innings matched a career high. The accomplishment was all the more impressive given that the 26-year-old seemed to pitch through discomfort produced by a comebacker that caromed off the side of his right knee. Despite being visited twice by the Sox team trainer, Kelly stayed in the game. He showed an impressive three-pitch mix, with his two-seam fastball (mostly 93-96 mph) garnering tons of grounds, a changeup that unsettled lefties and a breaking ball that he could throw for strikes.

Kelly also collected an infield hit against Cardinals starter Shelby Miller — who was the best man in Kelly’s wedding.

Mike Napoli went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

Junichi Tazawa bounced back from a yield of three straight two-out hits on Tuesday en route to a loss to deliver a perfect eighth inning, followed by a scoreless ninth for the save from Koji Uehara.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia, who closed out the Sox homestand with five straight multi-hit games, went 0-for-4 and is now 1-for-8 on the roadtrip against the Cardinals.

— In a questionable in-game tactic (unclear whether it was set in motion by manager John Farrell or the hitter), Will Middlebrooks had an unsuccessful attempt at a sacrifice bunt as a pinch-hitter against a left-handed pitcher in the top of the eighth. At a time when the team is trying to evaluate Middlebrooks’ ability to handle big league pitching, the idea of a sacrifice against a lefty seemed to serve little purpose, particularly given the third baseman’s inexperience bunting (he has one successful sac bunt in the big leagues). He popped up his attempt, resulting in a force out of lead runner Mookie Betts.

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