WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Baseball took Xander Bogaerts so many places he never imagined. Baseball made him a highly-coveted prospect in Aruba. It made him a gem in the Red Sox farm system. It made him a World Series champion twice over.
The one place baseball never took him was Williamsport.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Even though it was many moons ago, Bogaerts still vividly remembers the two chances he had to get to the Little League World Series.
“I lost to Curaçao both times,” he said, a slight pang showing in his face as he remembered the teams of Jurickson Profar and Jonathan Schoop. “They’re really known for tournaments like this.”
The way Sunday’s Little League Classic was wedged into the Red Sox schedule — at the tail end of a six-game road trip, with so much packed into one day — made it a unique experience and a logistical challenge. But Bogaerts had it marked on his calendar since the offseason.
It was understood coming in that the day was going to be different, but special.
“It’s not an easy day, travel-wise and all that,” manager Alex Cora said. “But then when you get here and you forget about all the luxury and the five-star hotels and traveling and all that, and you get connected with kids and the whole atmosphere, it was awesome.”
Sox starter Nick Pivetta tried to keep some semblance of a routine by getting off the flight, going straight to the hotel, and getting three hours of sleep before getting to the ballpark.
“It just takes us back to our roots at where we were at this age,” Pivetta said.
But hopping a flight from Baltimore to finish a three-game series was easy for Bogaerts. So was taking the team bus to Lamade Stadium to spend time with all the teams.
“It is a long day,” he said, “but for me it just hit different because I remember when I was a kid, I just had different dreams. Different desires.”
A 5-3 loss to the Orioles at Historic Bowman Field mattered to those current desires, and certainly did not help. The Sox (60-62) remain in the American League East basement (3½ games behind the Orioles) and seventh in the race for the three AL wild-card places, six games behind.
The Sox settled for a 3-3 road trip, but they’ve won six of their last 10 as they return to Fenway to host a six-game homestand against the Blue Jays and Rays.
Boston was in a 5-2 hole in the ninth inning when Bogaerts smacked a solo home run. It was his 10th of the season, but his first since Aug. 3. His previous five games, he was 3 for 18 (.167).
He grinned at the thought and said, “Swing hard in case you hit it, kid.”
It sounded like he was talking to a younger version of himself. There was a memory at every turn for Bogaerts on Sunday. He ran into friends from the Curaçao team, people he played with, people he’d known since Little League.
“It was really good to see a lot of people,” he said. “They’re not family, but they’re pretty close.”
Coming up short on a special day still stung.
The Sox found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the first inning after Pivetta gave up RBI singles to Anthony Santander and Ramón Urías.
Since giving up seven runs to the Yankees on July 16, Pivetta had steadied himself, putting together a 3.45 ERA in 28⅔ innings his previous five starts. He steadied himself again Sunday, allowing only the two runs in 5⅔ innings, on six hits and one walk while striking out nine. Securing his first double-digit win season would have to wait a while longer, though.
Kiké Hernández cut the deficit in the second with a single to center that scored Rafael Devers and made it 2-1. But beyond that, the Sox couldn’t budge Orioles starter Dean Kremer. Kremer, who had a 9.45 ERA in three previous starts (all losses) against the Sox, allowed the one run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 5⅓ innings.
No one on the Sox roster had a quicker turnaround than Franchy Cordero, who was added Saturday in the extra roster spot allotted for Sunday’s game, flew from Boston to join the team in Baltimore, then traveled to Williamsport. He made the most of his miles with the Sox down, 2-1, in the eighth inning, smacking a solo homer over the left field fence to tie the game.
But the Orioles ended comeback hopes with three immediate runs against Matt Barnes (0-4) and John Schreiber. After Schreiber entered following a one-out Barnes walk, the emergent righty hit Austin Hays with his first pitch, walked Rougned Odor on four more to load the bases, and surrendered a bases-clearing Jorge Mateo double past a diving Devers down the left-field line.
The Sox needed more than Bogaerts’s homer off Baltimore closer Félix Bautista, but from a broader perspective, Bogaerts got everything he needed out of the day.
“I was going through a rough, rough period, but a lot of kids was coming up to me and being like, ‘You’re my favorite player.’ I was like, man, I know I’m playing bad, but hearing something like that from the kids, it makes you feel proud of what you’ve accomplished so far and you’ve just got to continue doing it so you don’t disappoint them,” Bogaerts said. “It was very meaningful. It was great.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.