Xander Bogaerts has made it a habit of sprinting out to the mound in the first inning and flipping the rosin bag in his right hand a few times before continuing to shortstop.
In the last few weeks, Rafael Devers has playfully raced his teammate to the spot, the two of them laughing like oversized Little Leaguers as they take the field.
Bogaerts got there first on Sunday afternoon and threw the bag at Devers when his back was turned, leaving a small patch of powder on his jersey.
Devers turned around in surprise then jogged over to third base smiling the whole time.
Maybe that helps explain why Devers could well be the Most Valuable Player in the American League this season. Nobody is having more fun.
Devers had four more hits and drove in four more runs as the Red Sox rallied from a six-run deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 13-7.
The 22-year-old had a single, two doubles and a two-run homer to lift the Sox to their fifth consecutive victory. Devers is now hitting .332 with a .976 OPS, 27 home runs, 46 doubles, 103 runs, and 101 RBIs.
All that with 35 games still to play.
“A young superstar,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “A guy who’s an absolute force offensively and is going to be an incredible player in this league for a long time.”
Mike Trout, a spectacular hitter, defender and base runner, is clearly the best overall player in the league. But Devers is stacking up traditional statistics. He leads the majors in hits, doubles and RBIs and is third in runs.
“It feels good. But overall it’s just good to get a win. That’s what is most important to me right now, us continuing to play well,” Devers said via a translator.
Devers is the first player with at least 100 runs and 100 RBIs before turning 23 since Miguel Cabrera for the Marlins in 2005. No Red Sox player has done that since Ted Williams in both 1939 and ’40.
“He did that twice?” Devers said in English. “Wow.”
But even the great Williams would be impressed with Devers, a hitter with power to all fields. Sunday’s show included a double that thudded into the wall in left and a home run down the line in right that disappeared deep into the stands.
“It seems like everything that is in the zone he’s hitting hard,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The quality of the at-bats are great. He keeps working. He’s not taking anything for granted.”
The Sox needed the offense on Sunday after Nate Eovaldi put them in a 5-0 hole.
In his first start since April 17, Eovaldi allowed five runs on three hits, three walks and two wild pitches over only two innings. Renato Nunez’s long three-run homer to left field in the first inning was the big hit for Baltimore.
When Darwinzon Hernandez allowed a run in the third inning, the deficit grew to 6-0.
“We know the type of team we have and we know we had what it takes to get back in the game,” Devers said.
The comeback started with two runs in the third inning against Ty Blach. When Sam Travis belted a home run to center in the fourth, it gained steam. Then the Sox sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth and scored six runs.
J.D. Martinez led off with a double to left field and moved up to third when Andrew Benintendi flied out to center.
After Travis drew a walk, Blach was done. Christian Vazquez then doubled off Gabriel Ynoa to drive in a run. When the Sox sent up Mitch Moreland as a pinch hitter for Sandy Leon, Hyde countered with lefthander Paul Fry.
Moreland’s popup to shallow left field should have been caught. But it fell between three players.
A wayward throw from shortstop Jonathan Villar forced catcher Chance Sisco to reach across the plate trying to tag Travis and the ball rolled away. That allowed Vazquez to score the tying run.
“I’ll take it. It works,” Moreland said. “Then it kind of was a snowball fight there. Guys were running everywhere.”
With two outs, Mookie Betts walked to keep the inning going. Devers followed with a double to drive in Moreland with the go-ahead run.
Bogaerts reached on an infield single and Betts scored. When Shawn Armstrong replaced Fry, it appeared the Orioles were out of the inning when Martinez grounded to first.
But when Chris Davis looked to second base for a force play, nobody was covering the bag and Devers scored.
The Sox added four more runs in the seventh, two on Devers’s home run.
Devers has hit safely in eight consecutive games at 20 of 37 with eight doubles, four home runs, and 14 RBIs.
Along with Bogaerts, Moreland has been a mentor to Devers, particularly in helping him use scouting reports to prepare for opposing pitchers.
“I’m running out of stuff to say about him,” Moreland said. “It seems like a bad day for him is 2 for 4 with a double. He’s been incredible.”
The Sox have won five straight and seven of their last 10. But they remained 6½ games behind Tampa Bay in the race for the second wild card in the American League when the Rays came back from a three-run deficit to beat Detroit, 5-4.
After a day off on Monday, the Sox start a two-game series against Philadelphia on Tuesday night at Fenway.