Red Sox Xander Bogaerts Lets Boston Sleep At Night

Jun 11, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon (3) and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) talk with pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) during the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 11, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon (3) and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) talk with pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) during the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is the hottest hitter in the major leagues, and he’s also the best remedy for the pitching nightmares lately.

Counting sheep does not comfort the slumbering heads of Bostonians as well as counting runs does, especially in recent weeks. Each time that the starting rotation fills the fans with horrific scenes of substandard pitching, Bogaerts seems to be the Sandman who puts their fears, and the hopes of opposing teams, to rest.

Scott Lauber of ESPN reported David Ortiz, the undisputed leader of the franchise, saying, “That kid is on another level […] He’s on top of his game like nothing I have ever seen before. His s— is way too good to believe. The way he’s playing, he’s the best shortstop in the game — by far. I’d throw my boy against anyone right now in the big leagues.”

Yesterday was a great example. It wasn’t just the fact that Bogaerts went 4-for-5, cashing in three RBIs, and crossing the plate four times for his team. It had a lot to do with the timing of his hits.

Bogaerts started the scoring with his 20th double of the season, which brought in leadoff man Mookie Betts to take the early lead in the top of the first inning. The pressure was immediately on the Minnesota Twins and not on Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez, who now had a lead to work with. Jackie Bradley Jr. was able to return the favor to Bogaerts by cashing him and Hanley Ramirez in with a three-run blast for a 4-0 lead.

Rodriguez held that lead for three innings, until he gave up a three-run homer to Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the fourth inning. Trevor Plouffe tied it for the Twins with a sacrifice fly that scored Joe Mauer, eliminating the early advantage that the Red Sox provided their starting pitcher with earlier in the game.

As if Superman himself was called down from the heavens to restore justice to Red Sox Nation, Bogaerts led off the very next frame with a single and ran quickly to third base off of a groundball by Ortiz. Ramirez was able to provide the sac fly that brought Bogaerts home within two at-bats, reclaiming the lead for Boston.

Bogaerts added to the legend that is building by bashing his eighth homer of the year, a two-run shot, in the top of the eighth inning and singled in the top of the ninth inning, allowing teammate Chris Young to bring him home on a single.

Bogaerts didn’t make every one of the 15 runs happen, yesterday; however, it seemed like he was the catalyst every time the Red Sox looked like they were threatening to score. And, it’s not like Boston didn’t need it every single time. Rodriguez was given a four-run lead served up to him, and his performance rejected it like it was cold soup at a restaurant. Most starters would kill to have a lead like that to work with, but the growing trend for the Red Sox has been that leads are never, ever big enough.

Rodriguez finished the day by allowing four runs on six hits in 4.2 innings of work. That makes nine runs in 10.1 innings for his last two starts.

As a rotation, the Red Sox starters have been victim of the home run ball far too many times, often when they already have the lead. Buchholz got knocked out of the rotation and into the bullpen by allowing 12 homers in costly situations, giving him a 3-6 record and making him look less than confident on the mound. Rick Porcello‘s saving grace, if you can call it that, from allowing the same amount of home runs is that he gave up nine runs less than Buchholz in 12 more innings. The same can be said for David Price, who has given up 10 homers and 43 runs, just like Buchholz, but has also pitched over 20 more innings and has posted a 7-3 record. Rodriguez has only had three starts since coming off of the disabled list to start the season, yet he has already allowed five home runs.

In fact, other than the original fifth starter, Steven Wright, the Red Sox do not have a starting pitcher with less than a 4.04 ERA. Boston may have the most runs scored in the majors (365), but they also have the fifth worst total for runs against (256) and fourth worst ERA (4.22) in the American League. Having 51 homers allowed by the starters doesn’t help matters, as they are only eight from the MLB lead.

These numbers make it all the more crucial that Bogaerts brings his offense in every single at-bat. Without starting pitching that can hold off opposing teams, Bogaerts and the Red Sox have had to put up amazing numbers just to keep the team in a tie for top spot in the A.L. East division.

Imagine if the starters could actually keep a lead?

Bogaerts’ numbers do not just show aggressiveness, they are also consistent. The 23-year-old is second only to Daniel Murphy for the MLB lead in batting average. Bogaerts currently sits at .358, demonstrating that he can hit for bases as well as for power. When the team has a fast runner like Bogaerts on first base seemingly every time his name comes up in the batting order, it wears on the opposing team’s starter. When he can do it every game, that’s a chance at a run in at least four or five innings, let alone if anyone is on base in front of him.

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Bogaerts’ efforts don’t just spell out offense, they also help out the starting rotation. Every time Bogaerts reaches first base, it gives the Red Sox an opportunity to earn a run that the starters may give away later in the game. Unfortunately, the way that games have gone so far for the Red Sox, Bogaerts may need to give an MVP performance at the plate just to keep Boston from falling short in the win column.