Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts shows signs of breaking out of slump


Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts collected a pair of hits last night, signalling his prolonged slump may be coming to an end.

The bat of Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts may finally be waking up again.

It looked like Bogaerts was going to contend for a batting title through the first half of the season, with his name being tossed into the MVP conversation at one point, but a second half slump has wiped out those chances.

Bogaerts has stumbled since the break, hitting an uncharacteristic .219 with a .599 OPS in the month of August. This month wasn’t looking better after a 4-for-23 start, but a multi-hit game Friday night in Toronto could be just the spark he needs to get back on track.

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When he struck out flailing at a changeup down and away in the top of the first inning, Bogaerts saw his batting average dip below .300 for the first time since the end of April. He wouldn’t stay below that level for long. A base hit in the fourth inning gave the struggling shortstop a much needed confidence injection.

The next time he stepped to the plate, Bogaerts led off the seventh inning with a home run to ignite a six-run inning that would help the Red Sox run away with the victory. Bogaerts paused at the plate as he watched the ball fly off his bat down the left field line. He wasn’t admiring his shot, posing or attempting to show up the pitcher. The way things have been going for Bogaerts lately, he must have assumed it was going to hook foul.

It didn’t, so Bogaerts was able to complete his first home run trot of September. When he crossed home plate it was his 100th run scored of the season, which trails only Mookie Betts on the team. The young All-Star duo has now joined Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky (1942) as the only Red Sox teammates to each score 100+ runs in a season before the age of 24.

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Perhaps a trip to Toronto was just what the doctor ordered to cure what has been ailing his swing. Bogaerts is hitting .382 with a 1.047 OPS in 7 games at the Rogers Centre this season and now has a .324/.337/.490 slash line for his career in Toronto.

The Red Sox could certainly use this type of production from their No. 2 hitter. They enter the day with a slim two game lead over the Blue Jays for the AL East lead, with a pair of games left to play in Toronto this weekend. This is a prime opportunity for the Red Sox to put some distance between them, but they could just as easily head home tied in the division if they don’t take care of business in these next two games.

The rest of the year’s schedule is packed with divisional games, making each of them vital in a tightly contested race. The Baltimore Orioles are hot on Toronto’s heels and the revitalized New York Yankees are lurking right behind them. Any of these teams could pose a threat to steal the top spot away from Boston down the stretch, while all of them remain in the mix for a Wild Card spot.

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If the Red Sox hope to stave off the fierce competition in the American League playoff hunt, they need Bogaerts to return to the form he showed in the first half of the season. Last night’s multi-hit game gives him something to build on, so hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.