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Xander Bogaerts’ 9th-inning HR a reminder that rookie can accomplish a lot in remainder of season 07.30.14 at 7:04 am ET
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Amidst the trade rumors and speculation surrounding the Red Sox, it’s easy to forget about what happened on the field Tuesday night.

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Lost in the shuffle was Xander Bogaerts‘ solo home run, a drive into the Monster seats on a 1-2 cutter from Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen. The shot brought the Red Sox within two runs in the ninth inning, but they would go down in order to end the contest.

Bogaerts finished the night with a pair of hits and a pair of strikeouts, extending his hitting streak to four games. It might not seem like much, but for a young player who has looked lost at the plate during points this summer, it’s progress.

The 21-year-old put together a dismal .106/.149/.159 line with two home runs (his only two extra-base hits) and six walks compared to 33 strikeouts over a stretch of 31 games from June 8 to July 19. While it’s a notably small sample size, he’s turned things around as of late, going 10-for-31 (a .323 average) over his last eight games, dating back to the beginning of the Red Sox‘ last road trip. He’s put together three multi-hit showings over that span. Has something begun to click for Bogaerts?

“I’m just trying to put a good swing on the ball, trying to drive the ball instead of just touching it,” Bogaerts said of his recent performance.

Maybe it’s working. Bogaerts has just three extra-base hits over his last 33 games, but two of those have come in the last week.

While he’s hit for a higher average over the last week or so, the problems that have plagued him over the course of the season remain. The glaring lack of walks and the uptick in strikeouts stands out. He’s fanned in 28 percent of plate appearances over the last 33 games, while he’s worked just four free passes. He’s gone without a walk in his last nine contests.

But while the season may feel like a bit of a lost cause with the Red Sox so far out of playoff contention, two months is a good chunk of time for Bogaerts to turn around his rookie campaign. Tuesday night represented a good start. With the Red Sox out of the postseason hunt, the remaining 46 games of the season will give them a chance to get a good look at some young players, Bogaerts included.

“Two months of the season left you can do a lot,” Bogaerts said. “It’s just a matter of time and putting up good at-bats.”

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Xander Bogaerts on confusion about outs: ‘That’s terrible’ 07.27.14 at 12:37 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts thought that his strikeout on Saturday represented the third out rather than the second. (AP)

Xander Bogaerts thought that his strikeout on Saturday represented the third out rather than the second. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On a night of offensive futility, it was the moment that reverberated.

Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth inning on Saturday night against Rays reliever Grant Balfour. At a time when the Red Sox trailed, 2-0, Bogaerts had an opportunity to alter the contest, with runners on first and third and one out.

And so, when Bogaerts took a fastball for a called third strike, the moment was disheartening enough for the young player. But then it became embarrassing.

Bogaerts placed his helmet and bat on the dirt next to the batter’s box and removed his batting gloves, as if the inning was over. He thought that he had recorded the third out of the inning instead of the second.

“It’s something that shouldn’t happen again,” said Bogaerts. “I went up there, double-checked with [Rays catcher Jose Molina], asked him, ‘Two outs,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, two outs.’ That’s what I heard. I could have heard wrong, too. But that’s what I heard. If I got it wrong, that’s terrible. It’s something that shouldn’t happen again.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Xander Bogaerts learns yet another valuable (and painful) lesson 07.23.14 at 10:48 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

TORONTO — Every once in a while, you get a reminder that Xander Bogaerts is 21 years old. Wednesday night was one of those occasions.

The talent of Bogaerts was on display in the fifth inning when he doubled in Daniel Nava for what was at the time the go-ahead run for the Red Sox. After that, youth won over … and not in a good way for the third baseman or his team.

With two outs in the sixth inning and the Blue Jays having already tied things up at 4-4, Jose Reyes hit a routine grounder that Bogaerts was forced to take a few steps to his left on before gobbling up. With the speedy Reyes running, Bogaerts immediately transferred the ball to his throwing hand and fired it to first baseman Mike Napoli.

The problem came as soon as Bogaerts released the ball, as he pulled it just enough to make it a one-hopper that Napoli couldn’t stretch and gather in. The result was the go-ahead run scoring and the Blue Jays taking the lead for good instead of the teams heading into the seventh all knotted up.

“It was a ball in the dirt. Just tried to pick it. I’€™m pretty good at picking balls and didn’t come up with it,” Napoli said, adding, “I was kind of falling over a little bit. it’€™s a play I’ve made in the past and I expect to make and I didn’t make the play.”

Another sign of Bogaerts’ youth came after the game when he ducked out of the clubhouse before the media’s availability. (It’s a small item, but one veterans frown upon since they’re the ones who end up having to answer for the rookie.)

“He could see it in front of him, you’€™d have to ask him,” Napoli said when asked if Reyes’ speed factored into the hurried throw. “But you have to be quick with it. Him being quick down the line, it’€™s a play you have to get your feet under you and be quick.”

Bogaerts has taken his lumps this season while playing his new position at third base (making eight of his 15 errors at the position), although Red Sox manager John Farrell said it’s not for a lack of trying.

“I recognize that there’s a number of errors there at third base in the games he’s played,” Farrell said. “I can’t say it’s for exactly one reason that links them all together. It’s not because of effort and intensity with which he goes about his play.”

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Red Sox lineup at Blue Jays: Shane Victorino sits, Brock Holt in right, Xander Bogaerts returns 07.21.14 at 3:28 pm ET
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The Red Sox will open their three-game set against the Blue Jays with four rookies in the lineup. Shane Victorino, after playing back-to-back games over the weekend (and four straight overall with the conclusion of his rehab assignment), will sit out, with Brock Holt heading to right field. He’ll flank Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, while Xander Bogaerts (after sitting on Sunday) will return to the lineup at third base, and Christian Vazquez will catch John Lackey.

For a look at how Lackey has fared against the Blue Jays and how Toronto starter Drew Hutchison has done against members of the Red Sox, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Daniel Nava, LF

Stephen Drew, SS

Xander Bogaerts, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

John Lackey, RHP

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Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine 07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.

Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.

“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.

“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”

What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.

The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.

“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.

“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”

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Red Sox lineup: Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli get day off in series finale at 11:43 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will get the day off from the starting lineup as the Red Sox look for the three-game sweep of the Royals against hard-throwing righthander Yordano Ventura. Shane VIctorino is playing in his second straight game with Boston, and fourth consecutive overall, dating back to the start of his brief rehab stint with Pawtucket on Thursday. He is scheduled to have the day off Monday when the Red Sox open a series in Toronto.

For a complete batter vs. pitcher breakdown, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt 3B

Daniel Nava LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Carp 1B

Shane Victorino RF

Stephen Drew SS

David Ross C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Jon Lester SP

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Xander Bogaerts shows signs of life at the plate with clutch performance against Kansas City 07.19.14 at 1:51 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts got on-base a total of three times Friday night, spurring the Sox to a 5-4 victory. (AP)

Xander Bogaerts got on base a total of three times Friday night, spurring the Sox to a 5-4 victory. (AP)

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:

Relief.

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.

“€œThat was pretty good, the inside of the ball,”€ Bogaerts said after the game. “€œI 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.

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