Xander Bogaerts left tickets for his mother and uncle before Thursday night’s game against the Yankees at Fenway Park. But they were late getting to their seats after running into traffic coming from Logan Airport — shocking, right? — and missed his first at-bat.
“I was looking for them,” said Bogaerts, who belted a 451-foot three-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka in the first inning, the furthest of his career. “But I didn’t see them walking to their seats until the second inning.”
Bogaerts then struck out a few minutes later.
“Typical, right?” he said. “Trying to do too much.”
Never one to disappoint his family, Bogaerts singled and came around to score in the fourth and fifth innings then homered again in the eighth to cap a 19-3 victory. It was the most runs the Red Sox have ever scored against the Yankees.
Who are the savages in the box now? The Red Sox had 23 hits off four Yankees pitchers, 14 for extra bases, to start a homestand that will help steer the team toward a strategy, one way or another, at the trade deadline.
Bogaerts’ homer in the first inning lit a fuse.
“I think we all just relaxed and just played once we had the lead,” J.D. Martinez said. “But Xander has been doing that for us all season. He’s been great.”
If the Red Sox are able to pull it together and find a door to the postseason, the move manager Alex Cora made late last month to hit Rafael Devers second will be a big reason. That helped get leadoff hitter Mookie Betts going but also turned Bogaerts into one of the top run producers in the game.
In the 23 games he has played since that change, Bogaerts has 15 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs. He’s not one of the best-hitting shortstops in baseball; he’s one of the best hitters regardless of position.
“He’s doing everything,” Betts said. “He’s one of our anchors and we’re leaning on him. You watch what he does on a daily basis and it has been great.”
A little friendly competition helps, too.
“Me and Devers, we talk all the time about who is doing what,” Bogaerts said. “We push each other. That has been good for both of us. If I hit a home run, he wants to hit one. I’m the same with him.”
It’s a powerful combination. Devers has a .945 OPS, 21 homers and 81 RBIs. Bogaerts has a .975 OPS, 23 homers and 80 RBIs.
Devers was 2 for 5 with a double, a homer and two RBIs on Thursday. He also revealed a new appreciation for advanced statistics.
“My home run was 112 miles per hour and Bogie had 113,” Devers said. “I need to swing harder. Maybe tomorrow.”
For Bogaerts, it all goes back to the five-year, $120 million extension he agreed to during the first week of the season after telling agent Scott Boras to get a deal done. Knowing he had long-term security and could stay with the Sox was meaningful.
“I think that helps any player,” Martinez said. “You feel comfortable and you can relax. I know it helped me last year. It can be huge.”
Bogaerts faced Austin Romine, normally a catcher, in the eighth inning and admitted he was trying to hit a home run.
“I have tried before and it didn’t work out,” Bogaerts said. “Very few times.”
Romine pitched against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the Division Series last October and retired Bogaerts on a grounder to third base.
“I didn’t wait for him to drop down like he did in the playoffs. That was tough to hit,” said Bogaerts, who went 405 feet to left field this time.
Bogaerts’ family will be in town for the series. That’s a good sign for the Sox, who need every win they can get.
“It’s crucial,” Bogaerts said. “Playing the Yankees, playing Tampa, they’re two teams we’re chasing. That was a good way to start the series against them. That was the first time we played them at [Fenway] this year.
“Listen, man. We know how good they are. They’re real good. We were up 7-0 and they came right back.”
After Bogaerts answered a few more questions from a group of reporters clustered around his locker, he dashed for the clubhouse door.
“I’ll tell my mom hi for you,” he said.