After powering the Red Sox to a 15-4 win over the Twins Saturday afternoon, Xander Bogaerts is looking less like a simple All-Star, and more like a legitimate MVP candidate.
It would be Bogaerts who delivered the biggest hit for Boston on the day, and effectively put a close game to bed in the late innings. But really, it never should have been important. The Red Sox jumped all over Kyle Gibson in the first, and seemed to have the game largely in hand as Bogaerts started his day with an RBI double to score Mookie Betts, then came in himself when Jackie Bradley Jr. blasted a three-run shot over the right-field wall.
But it was not to be, and concerningly enough, it's because Eduardo Rodriguez just wasn't very good. There were signs of progress from his rough outing against Toronto, certainly. The velocity was up, and there were some moments where the Rodriguez of 2015 would shine through. But those moments came early, and as the outing reached the middle innings, Rodriguez faltered, then fell. The Twins just missed on a couple of foul bombs in the third, and would have made good on a pair of walks and a single to the wall in right had Eduardo Nunez not been gunned down at second by Mookie Betts, who played the ball perfectly.
The fourth was not so kind to Rodriguez. This time, after putting two on with a walk and a base hit off the third base bag, Rodriguez left a changeup too high and not far enough outside to Kurt Suzuki. The catcher, who had 5 homers in better than 400 at bats last year and entered today's game with just one to his name, sent it five rows deep into the left field seats. Suddenly, the Twins were just one back, and they didn't stay there, either. One inning later, it was a pair of singles to Joe Mauer and Robbie Grossman along with a Trevor Plouffe fly ball that only stayed in the park because it found its deepest point making it a tie at 4-4.
While the Red Sox had gone quiet against Gibson for the second through fifth, with the game suddenly even once more, Bogaerts decided to start the heroics again. He gave the Red Sox a leadoff single, but it was the baserunning that really made the difference here. Following Bogaerts, David Ortiz hit a ground ball to second, where Brian Dozier tried to turn two. But Bogaerts knew he had the throw beat, and rather than sliding in, just kept right on running to the uncovered third base as Eduardo Nunez fired to first to record the out on Ortiz. The Twins got one, but Bogaerts went first-to-third, and put himself in position for Hanley Ramirez to bring him home with a sacrifice fly.
At the time, it was a huge play. But Bogaerts and the Sox would go ahead and diminish it by blowing the game hilariously wide open in the last couple of innings. After Robbie Ross and Junichi Tazawa got the Red Sox into the eighth, Oswaldo Arcia put them on the bases by attempting and failing to snowcone a Dustin Pedroia fly ball. That brought Bogaerts to the plate. The one thing his performance was missing to match what he'd done on Friday was a long ball, so he went ahead and golfed a fastball some 380 feet to left and made it a much more comfortable 7-4 lead.
But seven runs was not enough. After David Ortiz crushed a ball so hard that he was held to a single when it bounced off the wall in dead center, Chris Young drew a walk, and Buddy Boshers threw away a swinging bunt from Travis Shaw to score Ortiz from second. Sandy Leon, already the author of a quiet three hits on the game, went ahead and made it four (and left himself at five-for-five on the year) to put the Sox in double digits.
So ten. That's enough, right? Nope. Dustin Pedroia lined out to first to start the ninth inning, seemingly ending his hitting streak. He would get another crack at it. Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz continued to put distance between themselves and Victor Martinez atop the AL batting charts with back-to-back singles, and the Twins loaded the bases by catching Jackie Bradley Jr. with a wild pitch. Chris Young got a ground ball into left to make it 12-4, Travis Shaw and Sandy Leon drew walks, and Mookie Betts finally put a cap in it with a flared single to center field. 15-4.
Yes, sadly, that means Pedroia ended the inning and his streak with a pop-up. Oh well. 15-4!
This was a game that was close for an extended period of time, but it was also one the Red Sox had to feel they had no business losing the way it started. They certainly made sure of that by the time it was over. They'll go for the sweep tomorrow with Rick Porcello on the mound vs. Pat Dean.