Get used to it: Bogaerts comes through again for Sox


BOSTON -- Xander Bogaerts didn't think he was going to get a chance to hit when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Mookie Betts stood on second base with one out and the score tied, 1-1. With first base open, Bogaerts -- who had gone 2-for-4 previously, leads the Red Sox in batting average, and has been their best hitter with runners in scoring position all season -- figured he'd be walked, setting up a potential inning-ending double play.

But Tigers manager Brad Ausmus went ahead and had reliever Blaine Hardy pitch to him.

Wrong move.

On a 2-and-2 count, Bogaerts lined his third hit of the night, a ringing single to center field that scored Betts and gave the Red Sox a 2-1 victory, snapping their eight-game losing streak.

Bogaerts is now batting .410 with runners in scoring position this season, and .513 (20-for-39) with runners in scoring position since June 7.

And, like all of us, he's surprised that he got the chance to be the hero.

"I thought [Hardy] wasn't going to throw me any good pitches," Bogaerts said. "I was a bit too aggressive early on in the count, swinging at bad pitches."

But when Hardy threw a changeup for a strike on the 2-and-1 count, Bogaerts knew he'd see the pitch again.

"With that 2-and-1 [change], he told me what he was going to do the next pitch. So I was ready for it."

He lined it to center and and around came Betts, who slid feet first into home as the ball came in to Tigers catcher Alex Avila. The original call was safe, but there would be a review.

The problem? Fenway was already in party mode. Fans were cheering and the celebratory "Dirty Water" was blasting over the speaker system. And the hero of the night, Bogaerts, had his jersey torn to shreds by his teammates.

So everybody waited for about 4 1/2 minutes. Luckily for the Sox, the call on the field was confirmed.


"I want to know what was going to happen if he was out," Bogaerts quipped. "I got to get another jersey? I don't know what's going to happen."

In a season full of disappointments, Bogaerts is an outlier. He's bounced back from a frustrating rookie season to become one of the best shortstops in the American League. He was the only player who consistently hit over the team's winless road trip, and the were coming far before that. Bogaerts has at least one hit in 22 of his last 25 games, and has raised his average to a team-leading .310. Since May 6, he's batting .390 at Fenway Park.

"On the mental side he's extremely confident," John Farrell said. "He's relaxed, he's poised in those moments. His swing -- he lets the ball travel so deep, he keeps the bat in the strike zone so he's been able to handle a lot of off-speed pitches in those RBI situations or fight some fastballs off the other way. To his credit, it's a lot about his approach that he doesn't give up one side of the plate with trying to pull or trying to do too much with the pitch given.

Farrell has seen Bogaerts grow up from last season. Whether it's learning how to deal with failure, or just getting acclimated to the MLB lifestyle, Bogaerts is a different player this year. And his performance isn't being ignored by his teammates, either. While it's easy to point out Bogaerts' success at the plate, he's doing a lot more than swinging a hot bat.

"He's incredible. He's been the best," said Justin Masterson, who got the win in relief. "The thing that got me, I think it was Koji [Uehara] who was pitching, a fly ball to [Alejandro] De Aza had hung up there forever right in front of the wall. And Xander was almost out there and could have caught that. And that's where he's supposed to be in case it ricochets, but those are the little things beyond the incredible defense he's been playing. He's become a high-caliber shortstop, and with the hitting that he's done, he's doing those little things and getting out there and backing up especially here at Fenway. That's how you got to play Fenway, but it takes effort to do that.

"He's just been coming through and doing his thing. It's been pretty impressive to watch especially for a young kid that he is."

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