You could see it in Franchy Cordero’s swing change. The one that was long and loopy suddenly became a bit shorter.
You could see it in his swing decisions. Instead of chasing pitches, he rarely left the strike zone.
And though he had gone 54 plate appearances without displaying his light-tower power, you could see it in the power of the blistering line drives he put into play.
But Red Sox manager Alex Cora didn’t care about any of that. Cora saw the adjustments Cordero had made — breaking down his swing, piece by piece, then building it back up from scratch — all coming to fruition.
“The power is going to play,” Cora said before Sunday’s finale of a four-game series against the Mariners. “But I’ll take this version.”
It was the best version of Franchy Cordero, whose grand slam with two out in the 10th inning highlighted a wild walkoff victory over the Mariners, 8-4, that sent Fenway Park into euphoric chaos.
Cordero floated around the bases after staying true to his new approach. He belted an 0-and-2 hanging slider from reliever Andrés Muñoz and sent it sailing over the visitor’s bullpen. Cordero’s grandiose finish enabled the Red Sox to extend their winning streak to five games by completing their first four-game sweep with their first win in a league-leading seven extra-inning games.
It concluded a successful 6-1 homestand with a grand statement.
But as he glided around the basepaths, Cordero’s face remained stoic. His reaction was muted. His demeanor quiet, until, that is, he erupted when he was mobbed at home plate by his raucous teammates.
“Yeah, that moment was really close to my debut in the big leagues,” Cordero said afterward. “I’m really happy to be able to contribute to the team.”
Cordero’s big league debut came on May 27, 2017, with the San Diego Padres when he was a can’t-miss, dynamic 22-year-old from Azua, Domincan Republic. Cordero reflected on that joyful moment as the launching point of his big league career.
But times changed. Failure continued to pile up. Injuries, too. He was traded to the Royals in 2020, then again to the Red Sox before the 2021 season in a deal that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City.
The Red Sox felt they could unlock Cordero’s potential only after designating him for assignment. The baseball world seemingly had given up on Cordero, who made it through waivers and was outrighted to Triple A Worcester. The potential didn’t matter anymore. At 27, he was too old for that. But the team’s struggles at first base gave Cordero another opportunity to shine. He began working out at the position before he was recalled on April 29.
“There’s a lot of guys in that clubhouse who are very happy,” Cora said. “He brings a lot of joy and energy to the team.”
On Sunday, Cordero’s teammates basked in another of his joyful moments.
“There’s always going to be doubts in this game,” said Christian Arroyo, who was pressed into service at designated hitter when J.D. Martinez was scratched and homered in the second inning off Mariners starter Logan Gilbert to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
Xander Bogaerts hit a sacrifice fly that extended the lead to 2-0 in the third, before Adam Frazier’s two-run homer off Sox starter Nate Eovaldi tied it, 2-2, in the top of the sixth. Trevor Story answered in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer off Gilbert to give the Sox a 3-2 lead. It was his fifth homer and 13th RBI of the series.
Arroyo, too, had been DFA’d before he finally gained some traction with the Red Sox, so he knew of the road Cordero had traveled. “And when you’ve been bouncing around and you finally find a team that invests in you, and believes in you, [it’s great],” Arroyo said.
The Sox saw their 3-2 lead slip through their hands when Hansel Robles relinquished a game-tying homer to Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez with two out in the ninth. It was their sixth blown save in the ninth inning or later, and third by Robles, and almost squandered a stellar outing by Eovaldi, who went 6⅔ innings, surrendering just two runs while striking out 11.
The Mariners surged to a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th inning when Frazier singled to right off lefthanded reliever Jake Diekman to drive in ghost runner Sam Haggerty.
But, as the pages of the calendar have turned to the warmer months of the year, the Sox refused to let the calamitous turn of events put a frost on Fenway.
Kiké Hernández stung a single through the right side that scored Bobby Dalbec with the game-tying run, before Cordero ended it.
“Told you, he’s going to start hitting here,” Cora said of Cordero, who tripled in the 8th inning of Saturday’s 6-5 win, scoring the go-ahead run later in the frame. “He’s been swinging the bat well.”
Cordero’s grandiose finish pulled the Sox (19-22) within three games of reaching .500.
“Winning’s better than losing,” Cora said.
Franchy Cordero can certainly attest to that.