BALTIMORE — In an era defined by talented shortstops, and in a league that has seen talented players such as Francisco Lindor and Fernando Tatis rise to the sport’s forefront, Xander Bogaerts has made his own ascent, his talent propelling him into the same strata as his well-heeled and handsomely-paid counterparts.
Manager Alex Cora spoke to Bogaerts’s supreme skill and competitive fervor ahead of the Red Sox’ series with the New York Mets a couple of weeks ago, adding his shortstop’s calm demeanor, his lack of flashiness in the field can, at times, downplay what Bogaerts actually brings to the game.
Yet, with the season Bogaerts has had to this point, and the career he’s fashioned with the Red Sox, that should no longer be the case.
In the Sox’ 11-6 win against the Orioles Saturday at Camden Yards, Bogaerts’s imprints were all over the outcome. Bogaerts went 3 for 4 on the night, hitting a two-run home run to left in the top of the sixth inning to stretch the Sox’ lead to 11-2. at the time.
In the bottom half of that frame, Bogaerts flashed on defense, making a back-handed stab of a sharply struck Maikel Franco rocket to the hole. He initiated what ended up being an inning-ending double play that enabled Red Sox starter Garrett Richards to get out of a jam.
In the bottom of the seventh, Bogaerts leaped and caught a Cedric Mullins line drive that also ended the inning. The Sox went on to collect 14 hits, their 11 runs scored giving the team 44 in the last five contests with the Orioles.
At the fulcrum of it all is Bogaerts. He’s currently hitting .357, .400, .603 with a 1.003 OPS to lead all shortstops.
“I just want to strive to get better,” Bogaerts said afterward. “I want to go somewhere really high, and that’s what I expect of myself every day. I have that mentality of, of going out there and even surprising myself.”
Bogaerts’s play left Red Sox starter Garrett Richards in awe of his teammate. Richards, who went seven solid innings and allowed four runs on eight hits, including a Freddy Galvis solo shot in the second, knows how important it is to have Bogaerts behind him.
“Absolutely amazing,” Richards said of Bogaerts. “I mean these guys, this team in general, I mean, you guys have seen it for, you know, a month and a half now.”
The bottom of the Sox order contributed in each of the last two Red Sox wins after delivering virtually nothing for a large chunk of the season. The Red Sox (21-13) survived some ninth-inning drama to put their third consecutive win under wraps when Josh Taylor entered the game for a shaky Austin Brice and struck out Trey Mancini on three pitches.
Marwin Gonzalez’s double in the top of the second off Orioles lefthanded starter Zac Lowther, who made his big league debut, scored the Sox’ first run of the game. Orioles right fielder D.J. Stewart’s throw from right skidded away from second baseman Rio Ruiz, allowing Christian Vázquez to score. Hunter Renfroe’s RBI single up the middle later in the frame scored Gonzalez, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Michael Chavis, who was activated from the team’s taxi squad Friday and was in the leadoff spot Saturday, belted a two-run shot off Lowther to highlight the Red Sox’ four-run outburst in the inning that expanded their lead to 4-1.
Yet few teams have a Bogaerts, and as he reaches his prime in a Sox uniform that has over 1,000 games of dominance, his manager can’t help but look across the league and put his shortstop at the top of the pack.
“The whole package if he’s not the best shortstop in the big leagues, well, you know, I mean, somebody needs to show me somebody else, to be honest with you. That’s how I feel about him. This guy is amazing.”