BALTIMORE – Rafael Devers enjoys hitting at Camden Yards. Devers had nine homers there heading into Thursday afternoon’s opening series matchup against the Baltimore Orioles, behind the Toronto Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre for the most homers out of any opposing ballpark.
“He’s such a good player,” manager Alex Cora said before the Sox scored a 7-3 win. “And we’ll keep working with him. I know he likes hitting here. So hopefully he can pop one out and just get rolling.”
In Devers’s first at-bat, he made it 10 homers at Camden Yards, belting a two-run shot off Orioles starter Matt Harvey for his first home run of the season. Devers had two hits in his first 21 plate appearances prior to Thursday, but has taken better swings as of late.
So, the early lull — which is typical of Devers at the start of the year — wasn’t a lingering concern for the Sox.
“It’s only been five games and I’m continuing to go out there and work and try to do my best, because I know the type of player that I am,” Dever said before the game. “Like I always tell you guys, it’s early and there’s going to be ups and downs, but I feel really good about where I’m at [with] my swing.”
At times, Devers’s plate discipline can waver.An example came in his second at-bat, when Harvey got him to chase on a slider in the dirt. Devers, though, who continues to work on controlling the strike zone, has not given up too much of who he is: a hitter capable of getting to pitches off the plate and squaring them up.
For the last two seasons, Devers has hit in the No. 2 spot, but so far this year he has hit fifth in the lineup. Devers didn’t predict it would impact his approach.
“I’m just here to contribute anywhere that I can,” he said. “Obviously, I batted second and I’ve enjoyed that. But at the same time, I’m just glad that I can play every day. Like I’m just trying to help the team win. And it doesn’t change my approach whatsoever. No matter what, no matter where in the order I’m at. I’m going to give the best that I can.”
Devers started a rally in the sixth when he laced a single to left-center off Harvey. He finished the day 2 for 3 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored.
“When he starts controlling the zone, good things happen,” Cora said.
Vázquez stays hot
Christian Vázquez continued his hot streak vs. the Orioles, finishing 3 for 5 with two doubles and a single. Vázquez is coming off a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays where he hit .417 with two homers.
It included a game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 6-5 victory in extra innings on Tuesday night. Vázquez established himself as a hitter in the big leagues during the 2019 season when he hit .276/.320/.477 with 23 homers.
A proven catcher, does Vázquez think he’s situated himself as one of the best all-around catchers in the league?
“Yes,” said a smiling Vázquez. “Three times.”
Xander Bogaerts got an off day Thursday and Marwin Gonzalez took his place, playing shortstop for the first time since 2019. Gonzalez committed one error in the first on a Maikel Franco grounder . . . Lefthanded starter Chris Sale continues to go through his progression and is out to a 120-foot throwing program . . . The Red Sox have five Taxi Squad players on this road trip: infielder Michael Chavis, reliever Colten Brewer, catcher Chris Hermann, outfielder César Puello, and pitcher Ryan Weber . . . Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh threw out the first pitch at Camden Yards. Walsh, who served as Boston Mayor from Jan. 2014 to March 2021, now serves in the Cabinet of President Joe Biden as US Secretary of Labor . . . Baltimore first baseman Trey Mancini, who sat out last year’s pandemic-shortened season battling colon cancer, was treated to a warm ovation from the crowd and Red Sox players, coaches, and staff members when he was introduced during the pregame ceremony and again when he stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat. “I’m really happy for him,” Devers said. “We all know the battle that he went through. And to be back on the field, that’s just great to see.”