For his first 78 pitches, Felix Hernandez was, by and large, pinpoint accurate, dotting the strike zone with 55 of them.
But No. 79 got away from him.
A two-strike changeup that was supposed to finish Xander Bogaerts off, ended up wiping him out.
Coming in at 88 miles per hour, the ball smacked Bogaerts in the left ear flap, sending his helmet spinning off his head and leaving Bogaerts in the dirt in a heap.
With Bogaerts crumpled in the batter’s box, and Hernandez could hardly bring himself to look.
“You don’t want to get hit in your head obviously,” Bogaerts said. “But I got hit pretty good.”
Sox manager John Farrell came out with some of the team’s medical staff to tend to Bogaerts.
Eventually the Sox shortstop picked himself up and walked to first base. “It was kind of a scary thing,” Bogaerts said. “It got me right on the ear. I think I’m OK.”
He took the field the next inning to play short, but even he admitted he didn’t feel completely normal.
“Once I got on defense, I was happy I didn’t get no ground balls because I kind of lost my focus a bit,” Bogaerts said. “I was looking at [second baseman Dustin Pedroia] a lot and he was asking me if I was OK. But I knew that I didn’t feel 100 percent right then.”
Ultimately, Farrell would decide to pull Bogaerts in the sixth inning in order to be evaluated for a concussion.
He said he felt fine after the game.
“I feel good,” Bogaerts said. “I’ll come to the park tomorrow and see how I feel and just take it from there.”
Bogaerts’s tough luck started early.
In the second inning, he drilled a first-pitch fastball down the left-field line that sailed by the foul pole over the Green Monster.
Napoli may return
Sox first baseman Mike Napoli could return to the lineup Saturday after sitting out three games because of back spasms.
The issue first crept up after the Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to the Angels Tuesday.
“I feel better,” Napoli said. “It’s been bothering me for a little bit. Just became too much. Just spasmed up on me.”
Napoli has been receiving treatment from the Sox medical staff, and on Friday he did some light hitting and took ground balls before the team’s 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Aside from a left ring finger sprain that cost him 14 games early this season, Napoli has been relatively durable this season. He’s on pace to play 129 games after playing 139 a year ago.
With the Sox offense struggling all season, Napoli’s RBIs have dropped dramatically from 92 a year ago to 45 this season. But his batting average is up to .266 (the best it’s been since 2011, when he hit .320 for Texas) and with 15 homers, he’s five shy of reaching 20 for the seventh straight season.
Before going down, he’d put together a 15-game on-base streak, running his team-high on-base percentage to .385.
Farrell has been mindful of giving the 32-year-old slugger scheduled off days. Napoli got four of them in July. His first down day this month came last Sunday. The back issues forced him to sit three days later.
“We’re hopeful that he’ll be back in the lineup and project for him to be back in the lineup, tomorrow,” said Farrell.
Back to work
Yoenis Cespedes was back in the lineup after leaving Thursday’s game in the fourth inning because of what the team said was a family medical emergency.
Farrell went to Cespedes’s locker to check in on the 28-year-old outfielder when he arrived at the ballpark.
“It’s still a personal and private matter,” Farrell said.
Since coming to the Sox at the trade deadline, Cespedes has hit .230 with four home runs and 16 RBIs. He has struggled on the current homestand, but he homered in the sixth inning.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks also returned to the lineup. A strained right hamstring kept him out of Wednesday’s game. Thursday night he came in for Cespedes in the fourth inning. His seventh-inning double was the only thing that kept the Sox from being no-hit by the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker.
Farrell slid Middlebrooks in the No. 6 spot in the order, behind Allen Craig, who came off the disabled list Thursday. Middlebrooks went 0 for 4 and Craig 0 for 3.
End of parade
David Ortiz continued his tear, reaching base four times for the fourth straight game. He went 2 for 2 with two walks. In his first two at-bats, he singled and doubled off Hernandez . . . He’s the first player to reach base four times in four straight games since Joe Mauer did in in five straight in 2005. The last Red Sox player to do it was Mike Andrews in 1970. In his past 10 games, Ortiz is hitting .474 (18 for 38) with nine walks . . . The Sox had beaten the Mariners nine straight times at Fenway, going back to 2011. They outscored the Mariners, 57-29, over that span . . . This three-game set will wrap up the Sox’ games against AL West teams. They are 12-15 against the West. All but seven of the their final 32 games will be against AL East rivals . . . The Sox are in a 3 for 47 slump (.064) with runners in scoring position. Their .233 batting average with runners in scoring position was the worst in the American League coming into the game . . . Carl Yastrzemski turned 75 on Friday.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.