Boston Red Sox: Christian Arroyo coming through in the clutch

Christian Arroyo delivered a Red Sox win with another clutch hit

Just call him Captain Clutch. Christian Arroyo hasn’t cemented an everyday role for himself in the Boston Red Sox lineup but he’s taking advantage of the opportunities he gets.

With the Red Sox trailing by a run in the top of the seventh inning, the bases loaded, and the pitcher’s spot coming up in the batting order, manager Alex Cora sent the switch-hitting Danny Santana to the on-deck circle. After right-hander Shane Greene struck out Bobby Dalbec for the second out of the inning, the Atlanta Braves went to their bullpen to bring in lefty A.J. Minter.

It turns out that Atlanta’s bullpen management did Cora a favor, as it allowed him to counter with Arroyo. While there was some risk in wasting Santana since it meant Kike Hernandez and backup catcher Kevin Plawecki would be the only options remaining on the bench, the Red Sox would much rather have Arroyo facing a lefty instead of the guy hitting .104 against anyone.

Swapping the pinch-hitters proved to be a genius move when Arroyo caught a cutter over the plate and blasted a no-doubter to deep left field for a grand slam.

The 467-foot bomb is the second-longest home run by a Red Sox player this season, trailing only Franchy Cordero’s 474-footer. The 111.6 mph exit velocity is seventh on the team, per Baseball Savant.

The Red Sox had been one of only six major league teams without a grand slam this season. It’s not that they have struggled to hit home runs – Boston is tied for 10th in the majors with 86 this season – but they haven’t been getting the job done with the bases loaded, hitting a mediocre .255 with a .412 SLG in those situations.

Arroyo got the job done this time with the first grand slam of his career. It was also the first pinch-hit grand slam by a Red Sox player since Mike Carp hit one in Tampa Bay in 2013.

The bases-clearing blast would end up being the game-winner in a 10-8 victory that capped a sweep of the two-game series in Atlanta.

The dramatic moment is the latest in a series of clutch home runs that Arroyo has been piling up this month. Arroyo has four home runs in June and each has either tied the game or given the Red Sox a lead.

A three-run homer in the second inning in Houston gave the Red Sox a lead in an eventual 5-1 victory that salvaged a four-game series by avoiding a sweep.

One week later, Arroyo delivered another three-run homer against the Astros, this time at Fenway Park, to tie the game in the fifth inning. While Houston briefly reclaimed the lead in the sixth, Arroyo’s homer and the bases loaded walk he drew in the bottom of the inning played a significant role in Boston’s rally to win.

Arroyo’s solo shot into the Monster seats in the eighth inning tied the game in the opener of a four-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays last week. The Red Sox would go on to win with a walk-off base hit by Alex Verdugo.

These are all relatively recent examples but Arroyo has been delivering in the clutch all season. He’s 5-for-16 (.313) with a pair of home runs with two outs and runners in scoring position and 19-for-54 (.352) with three homers in one-run games. Arroyo is a scorching 8-for-15 (.533) with two home runs in situations defined as late and close. His grand slam was his second pinch-hit of the season so Arroyo is now 2-for-5 (.400) when he’s called in from the bench.

When the game is on the line late in a tight game, Arroyo is a guy the Red Sox can trust to have at the plate. He came to Boston as an unheralded utility-man fighting for playing time but he’s emerging as a key member of the supporting cast with a knack for delivering big hits. Arroyo is carving out a role for himself that will grow larger if he continues to come through in the clutch.