Red Sox: Baserunning blunder by Xander Bogaerts crushes rally

BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on May 6, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on May 6, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

A baserunning mistake by Xander Bogaerts stalled a Red Sox rally

The stage was set for a dramatic comeback by the Boston Red Sox but a costly mistake by Xander Bogaerts thwarted their efforts.

Boston trailed the Oakland A’s 4-1 heading into the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game at Fenway Park. Bogaerts drew a one-out walk that was followed by a Rafael Devers double, putting two in scoring position.

Christian Vazquez hit a sharp line drive to second baseman Jed Lowrie for a routine out. Had Bogaerts been off on contact, he would have scored easily to trim the deficit to two runs. Unfortunately, the ball was hit so hard that Bogaerts had to hold up to ensure it wasn’t caught in the air. By the time he realized it had bounced in front of Lowrie, it was too late. Bogaerts made a delayed effort to scamper home but first baseman Matt Olson threw to his catcher to cut him off at the plate for an inning-ending double play.

The hesitation was somewhat understandable given how hard the ball was hit. If Lowrie had caught it cleanly and Bogaerts had been off on contact, he would easily have been out with a throw to third base before he could scramble back to the bag. The result would have been the same.

After waiting for the umpire’s call that the ball had bounced, Bogaerts should have stayed put at third. Perhaps it would have been worth the risk in a one-run game but one run doesn’t do enough when you trail by three late in the game. Boston could have kept two runners in scoring position with two outs if Bogaerts held at third. The tying run would still be at the plate and a base hit could score two.

Instead, the Red Sox ended up with nothing. Oakland retired the side in order in the ninth inning to hand Boston their third straight loss.

Manager Alex Cora acknowledged to reporters after the game that his shortstop made an uncharacteristically poor decision in that scenario, according to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.

"“Trying to do too much in that situation,” said manager Alex Cora. “He froze on the line drive, went back and saw the throw to first and he took off. The effort was great, but obviously, in that situation — second and third — you stay there. He’s such a good baserunner. He thought, getting the run right there, he had it. But it’s a gamble in that situation.”"

Bogaerts also admitted that he went too late and should have handled the situation differently given the uncertainty of whether or not Lowrie caught the ball.

This was a pivotal moment that crushed a potential comeback attempt but it was hardly the only squandered opportunity.

Boston had A’s starter James Kaprielian on the ropes when the first three batters reached safely in the first inning but they let the rookie off the hook with minimal damage. Bogaerts and Devers both failed to deliver with the bases loaded. Vasquez walked to force in Boston’s only run of the game but Hunter Renfroe left the bases juiced when he struck out to end the inning.

Bogaerts wasn’t the only one who was thrown out at home. The Red Sox had runners on the corners with nobody out when J.D. Martinez grounded back to the pitcher. Marwin Gonzalez made a poor decision to try to score but was out easily. He tried to remain in a rundown long enough for Alex Verdugo to advance to third but his teammate stayed at second base despite Gonzalez appearing to wave him to third. At least they would have improved their chances to get something out of that inning with a runner on third and less than two outs but they ended up wasting the opportunity when Bogaerts and Devers both struck out.

The Red Sox were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Bogaerts and Devers both failed to deliver twice with at least one runner in scoring position.

The powerhouse Red Sox offense has entered a slump, scoring a total of only four runs during their three-game losing streak. The clutch hitting that fueled their rise to the top of the standings has abandoned them during this stretch.

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Even the best lineups won’t light up the scoreboard every game but this wasn’t a case of the Red Sox being shutdown by great pitching. Oakland gave them plenty of opportunities but Boston’s bats couldn’t deliver the big hit. The lineup is going to have the occasional cold spell but they can’t waste opportunities by shooting themselves in the foot with costly mistakes.