Despite all the numbers that pointed directly to Rafael Devers’s production — the .314 batting average, the 18 RBIs, the 11 doubles and the .390 on-base percentage he brought with him into Saturday’s game against the Mariners — his home run total has been what’s stuck out so far this season.
Devers’s two homers might alarm some, but not manager Alex Cora.
“Throughout the season, he’s been consistent,” Cora said. “He’s been staying in the zone. His on-base percentage against righties is over .500. He’s actually handling lefties OK. That’s the thing. I know people are getting caught up in the home runs, but I think if he keeps dominating the strike zone the way he is, then that part of the game is going to happen.”
For the second straight game, Devers cranked out three hits, fueling the Sox’s 9-5 win over the Mariners. He went 3 for 4 with a game-tying two-run single in the third inning along with a walk and a stolen base.
He’s gone for multiple hits in 10 of his last 15 games, has 17 RBIs in his past 16, and has scored 12 runs in his last 12.
“He’s hitting for average, he’s getting on base,” Cora said. “We’ve been very pleased with him the whole start of the season because he’s keeping everything simple, using his hands. He’s been able to pull the ball now. For everything that people think it’s not a good offensive start, there’s a few things he’s doing right.”
Mitch Moreland homered for the second straight game, giving him a team-leading 12 and adding to an anomaly of a season. He has 27 hits and 18 have gone for extra bases. He has more homers than singles (9).
“One thing’s for sure, when he hits them, he’s really crushing them,” Cora said.
Moreland has homered in four straight home games. Cora said even with the productivity, the priority is to manage Moreland’s workload.
“We’ve just got to make sure we keep him fresh too,” Cora said.
Progress for Bradley
Cora took Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run single in the third inning as a sign that things are slowly coming together for the center fielder.
“You can see him turning in the right direction,” Cora said.
Bradley is hitting .149 for the season and .154 (4 for 26) in eight games this month.
“He’s trying to slow down some moves and he’s been able to do that,” Cora said. “You can see that he’s more quiet with his body too. So the last few days have been good for him.”
It was Bradley’s second multi-RBI game of the season.
“When the bottom of the lineup starts doing the things they’re capable of doing, then we become very dangerous,” Cora said.
Before he was King
Before Felix Hernandez became the force that would ultimately win a Cy Young and make six All-Star teams, Cora got an early glimpse. Cora faced Hernandez as the latter broke into the league in 2006-07.
Cora tried to guess his success rate.
“Um . . . 1 for 3?” he said.
Actually, 1 for 5. But no one was counting.
Now 33, Hernandez was a few years removed from his peak when he took the mound at Fenway, but Cora remembered how dominant he was in his prime.
“His stuff was off the charts,” Cora said. “He still pitches really hard, but it’s a different pitcher now. Kind of like CC [Sabathia] all those guys. They reinvent themselves and they go to breaking balls, but Felix, his fastball was good. Always fun in Safeco, with everything that goes there.”
Pedroia false start
Dustin Pedroia, who was due to play nine innings with Double A Portland on Saturday night in New Jersey, was a late scratch with what was termed “minor knee soreness.” It was hoped to be the first of three straight days playing on his latest rehab assignment, to be followed by a game at DH on Sunday, then a to-be-determined stint on Monday . . . Hector Velazquez will start the series finale against the Mariners on Sunday. It will be his sixth start of the season. He’s 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA. He’s faced the Mariners four times in his career but never as a starter . . . David Price, on the injured list since May 6 (retroactive to May 3), will throw a bullpen on Sunday. Cora said he’ll wait to see Price’s status before determining who starts the second game of the Colorado series on Wednesday . . . Nathan Eovaldi, on the injured list since April 20 (retroactive to April 18) with a loose body in his right elbow, is continuing to build strength in his arm. He threw around 30 pitches from his knees for the second time since going on the IL . . . Brian Johnson threw two 15-pitch simulated innings. His status for a return is still up in the air. Brock Holt took batting practice during Johnson’s simulated game. “He did everything today except throwing,” Cora said. “See how he reacts to it.” With Monday an off day for Triple A Pawtucket, the hope is that Holt will resume his rehab assignment on Tuesday.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.