Somehow, Xander Bogaerts continues to fly under the radar.
The Red Sox are off to a surprisingly strong April, and their shortstop and pseudo captain is a huge reason why.
Bogaerts had another big night Friday in what’s been a hugely productive week for the shortstop, as he did a little bit of everything in the Red Sox’ 6-5 win over the Mariners at Fenway Park, as they snapped a brief two-game losing streak.
Bogaerts does it again: The shortstop wasted no time in this one as the Red Sox faced a Mariners threat in the first inning. Martin Perez had given up a pair of wall-ball doubles and allowed an early 1-0 deficit, but further damage was denied by Bogaerts. With one out and runners at the corners, Perez induced Evan White into a ground ball and Bogaerts was there to make an impressive diving play to his left, before starting an inning-ending double play as the Red Sox escaped their jam.
About 10 minutes later, Bogaerts got it right back as he smashed a slider from Yusei Kikuchi that cleared the Green Monster seats to Lansdowne Street. After going homerless in his first 17 games, Bogaerts’ third homer in his last four games gave the Red Sox a lead they ultimately didn’t relinquish.
Bogaerts helped the Red Sox pad their lead in the fifth with an RBI single to center. With two hits on the night, Bogaerts is tied for the American League lead in hits with teammate J.D. Martinez, as both now have 28.
Martinez continues torrid start: Friday night was yet another reminder of the difference between last season and this season for Martinez.
The Red Sox’ designated hitter, despite playing in regularly cold temperatures for most of the month of April, continued to stay hot as he hit his seventh home run of the season by going opposite field and just barely clearing the wall in right field beyond Pesky’s Pole. Martinez’s seventh homer matched his total from last season’s train wreck, one in which he admitted he wasn’t properly prepared for after the start of the season was delayed by three months.
Martinez’s seven homers are the most in the American League, and he got to that number in 137 fewer at-bats than last season.
Don’t run on Verdugo: Alex Verdugo put everyone on notice defensively in 2020 when he tied for the American League lead with seven outfield assists in the shortened season, but apparently not everyone received the memo about his cannon arm.
Playing left field on Friday night, Verdugo came up with the biggest defensive play of the game in the fifth inning. The Red Sox led 3-2, but the Mariners were trying to rally. Kyle Seager had reached on an error from Bobby Dalbec and with two outs, White lofted a pitch from Hirokazu Sawamura off the Green Monster that spelled trouble.
Seager tried to go from first to third, but Verdugo had other plans for him as he perfectly played the ball off the wall on one hop, turned and fired a laser to Rafael Devers at third, where Seager was out by 10 feet to end the inning. Verdugo flexed his arms after another big defensive play that helped the Red Sox protect their lead.
Sox hold on in ninth: With the way Matt Barnes has dominated to start the season, Alex Cora was obviously comfortable with putting his closer into a 6-2 game in the ninth. But Barnes made it interesting when he surrendered a three-run home run to Seager that suddenly made it a one-run game.
Barnes held it together, though, retiring Kyle Lewis and White to end it.