Xander Bogaerts’s two homers help Red Sox make it two straight
CLEVELAND — Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts are attached at the hip. So attached that manager Alex Cora joked Wednesday morning that when Bogaerts gets a hit and Devers is on first base, Devers is looking to score.
“They probably have a deal somewhere or something,” Cora said with a smile.
In a 5-1 victory against the Cleveland Indians that claimed the series for the Red Sox, the Bogaerts-Devers connection was right in front of you.
Devers, who went 6 for 6 Tuesday, continued to stay hot. In the first inning, he laced a single up the middle against Indians starter Shane Bieber to put him at 7 for 7.
In the third, he caused even more damage, belting a solo homer to left field, 8 for 8.
“He hits it so hard,” Bogaerts said. “That’s what’s most impressive. It’s not little bloop hits, little infield knocks. It’s just hard to the wall. It’s going to reach the wall in the air or on the ground.”
Bogaerts joined the party with his 26th homer of the year, making it back-to-back against Bieber. It was homer No. 100 of his career.
“Once I hit it, I completely forgot,” Bogaerts said. “Weeks before, I kind of had it in my head. I think it was kind of good that I got it out of the way. I had no idea.”
In the bottom half of that frame, however, Bogaerts and Devers went back-to-back a different way. Sox starter Brian Johnson retired seven of the first nine batters he faced, but an errant throw by Bogaerts on a groundball put Francisco Lindor at second with one out.
Next, Devers made an error on a chopper by Oscar Mercado. Instead of charging the ball, Devers waited back and got a weird hop that kicked underneath his glove and into left field.
Johnson then spiked a curveball in the dirt, and Lindor scored on the wild pitch. Johnson struck out Carlos Santana, but after a walk to Jose Ramirez, Cora had seen enough. He went to reliever Marcus Walden, essentially making it a bullpen game.
Tuesday night’s 7-6 extra-inning victory was a first for Cora. He noted that it was the most aggressive he’s ever had to manage a regular-season game. Cora had to go to Nathan Eovaldi, who was slated to start Wednesday afternoon, in relief in the eighth inning.
He then made the gutsy move of going to Andrew Cashner to close it out in the 10th, just two days after Cashner had been demoted to the bullpen.
Cora was similarly proactive on Wednesday.
Walden, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor held Cleveland scoreless through five innings as Cora went to his bullpen frequently to hold down the dangerous Cleveland lineup.
With the Sox clinging to a 2-1 lead in the sixth, Cora again called on Eovaldi, who worked a 1-2-3 inning, striking out Franmil Reyes and Mike Freeman.
“I feel like I’m getting the hang of throwing out of the bullpen,” said Eovaldi. “You know, when to bounce the breaking ball, when not to.”
Eovaldi got some insurance in the seventh and it circled back to Bogaerts. With Mookie Betts on first, the Indians decided they wanted no part of the hot-hitting Devers and intentionally walked him to bring up Bogaerts.
That plan backfired. Bogaerts crushed his second homer of the day, a three-run shot, widening the Sox lead, 5-1.
“It gets you going a little bit,” Bogaerts said of the intentional walk to Devers. “Understanding that they think you’re the weaker guy.”
Eovaldi held down the Indians for a second inning. Cashner handled the eighth and Brandon Workman the ninth. The Sox used a total of six relievers for 6⅓ scoreless innings.
This is how it’s going to be the rest of the season.
“They know,” said Cora. “They know we’re thinking the same way as far as managing the game and what we’re going to try to do.”
With Tampa Bay losing at San Diego, the Sox trail by 7½ games for the second wild card.
Cora said he hasn’t given any thought to Eovaldi potentially starting Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. The only starters he has inked in are Rick Porcello for Friday and Eduardo Rodriguez on Saturday.
Each move from here on out — though perhaps done on the fly — comes with aggressive intent as the Sox fight to stay afloat in their pursuit of a playoff spot.
“We put ourselves in a bad position,” Cora said. “But we understand we’ve got a shot to make some ground and the season is not over.”
The Sox dropped their previous series against the Orioles last month at Camden Yards. Bogaerts knows that can’t happen at this part of the season.
“We have to win them,” Bogaerts said.