Monday, December 9, 2013
By Kevin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Among the joyful scenes in the Red Sox clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night -- bleeding into Wednesday morning -- was a smiling 21-year-old, shirt drenched in champagne and, like many of his teammates, equipped with goggles to protect his eyes form the bubbly.
Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Molina, right, waits for a throw as Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts (72) slides home to score a run in the ninth inning of Game 4 of baseball's American League division series, Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Boston won the game 3-1.
Xander Bogaerts moved off to the side, his goggles now perched atop his head, and took it all in.
"Amazing," he said.
It certainly was, and he certainly is. The kid, who began the season in Portland, had hoped to reach Triple-A Pawtucket this year.
"I didn't think I'd get called up (to the majors)," Bogaerts said. And the idea of being on a playoff roster was out of the question.
How about the thought of scoring two of Boston's three runs, in a nail-biting 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, clinching the American League Division Series?
"Amazing," Bogaerts said again. "God does great things."
Boston manager John Farrell called on Bogaerts in a situation that Farrell frankly didn't think he was ready for Monday.
With Tampa Bay lefty reliever Jake McGee and his 97 mph fastball in the game Monday, Farrell did not pinch-hit Bogaerts for Stephen Drew, a player who has trouble hitting left-handers. Drew popped out.
On Tuesday, McGee appeared in the seventh inning, with the Rays up 1-0. First, Farrell sent up the master pinch-hitter, Jonny Gomes, batting for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Gomes struck out.
Then, in Drew's place, Farrell sent in Bogaerts.
"Well, I reserve the right to change my mind," Farrell said after Tuesday's game. "(Monday) night did play into (the decision), to be honest with you.
"I felt like we had to try something different."
What did Farrell have to lose? The Red Sox were being shutout and needed a spark. And Bogaerts has some boom in his bat.
"But I didn't want to (try and) hit a home run," Bogaerts said. "I just wanted to get on base. Let the other guys do their job and drive me in.
"It was a big situation but I felt very calm. Saw the pitches good."
Indeed, Bogaerts worked the count full.
"He gets a fastball thrown by him and he doesn't expand the zone. He doesn't chase (bad pitches)," Farrell said. "He showed tremendous poise."
Bogaerts walked. And after Will Middlebrooks struck out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right, sending Bogaerts to third.
A wild pitch later and Bogaerts was racing across home plate with the tying run.
In the ninth, Bogaerts worked another walk and eventually scored an insurance run to make it 3-1.
Counting his pinch-running Monday, Bogaerts has been on base on three occasions and scored every time.
And now Bogaerts stood amid the champagne showers. The last time the Red Sox celebrated, when they clinched the AL East Division in September, Bogaerts was only 20. He turned 21 on Oct. 1.
"I'm legal now," he said and shrugged. "But I don't drink."
• • •
Nearby, Craig Breslow was also drenched. He also was surrounded by reporters asking him when he became a strikeout pitcher.
"I don't know," Breslow said after recording four straight Ks.
Breslow is a solid control pitcher and gets groundouts. He did have 33 strikeouts this season, in 59 2/3 innings. More impressive was his 1.81 ERA.
"Next to Koji (Uehara, the Red Sox closer), he's a very dependable reliever," Farrell said. "He's flown under the radar most of the year."
Breslow put in one of the top performances of Tuesday's game. He ended the sixth by striking out James Loney. In the seventh, Breslow set down the formidable threesome of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings.
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