Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts picked a terrible time for a slump

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) /

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is ice cold at the plate

The Boston Red Sox are in danger of letting their playoff chances slip away and Xander Bogaerts is right in the middle of their downward spiral.

Bogaerts is in his worst cold spell of the season when his team needs him the most. The star shortstop went 0-for-3 in Thursday’s finale with the Baltimore Orioles. He grounded into a pair of double plays, including a rally-killer that ended the eighth inning. Bogaerts swung at the first pitch on both double plays and saw only two pitches when he grounded out to first base in the third inning.

That makes four games without a hit in his last six appearances. Bogaerts went 1-for-11 with a walk in a three-game series in which the Red Sox dropped two out of three to a 107-loss Orioles team. Baltimore’s pitching staff is easily the worst in baseball with a collective 5.77 ERA but Boston’s bats managed only two runs in each of their losses in the series.

Bogaerts is mired in a 2-for-23 slump dating back to the Yankees series when the Red Sox were swept at Fenway Park. Boston has lost five of their last six games to fall into a tie with the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot while the Toronto Blue Jays are lurking only one game behind.

This team is falling apart and Bogaerts is well aware of his role in this collapse, according to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.

"“Just not getting it done,” Bogaerts said. “The quality of my at-bats have been bad… just have had very unproductive at-bats and it sucks, bro. It sucks. I have three more games to get going and try to help this team try to turn this around.”"

The final three regular season games will be in Washington against a Nationals team that enters the series tied with the Miami Marlins for the worst record in the NL East. Washington waived the white flag on this season when they held a fire sale at the trade deadline. With nothing left to play for, you might expect the Nats to roll over in this series. Then again, we assumed the Orioles would too. Look how that turned out.

Boston can’t assume anything entering this series. Washington is an inferior opponent on paper but the Red Sox aren’t a better team based on what we’ve seen in the past week. They need to start playing better baseball and there isn’t much time to turn it around.

"“You can’t keep a good guy down for too long,” stated an optimistic Bogaerts."

Are we sure about that? It seems like Bogaerts has been down for quite a while. His current slump is easily the peak of his struggles but he hasn’t been swinging the bat well for several weeks. Bogaerts is hitting .262 with an .807 OPS this month. That’s not the production we expect from the All-Star shortstop, although it’s better than what he produced in August (.258/.336/.423) or July (.234/.315/.416).

Bogaerts was an MVP candidate in the first half of the season when he hit .321 with a .930 OPS and 15 home runs in 85 games. Since the break, he’s hitting .251 with a .747 OPS and eight home runs in 56 games.

As the bat of Bogaerts goes, so goes the Red Sox. Xander is slashing .343/.409/.577 when his team wins but a dismal .227/.301/.386 when they lose. It’s no wonder that Boston has been embarrassed in their last two series while Bogaerts is slumping.

"“I ain’t prepared to go home yet, so better start turning it around,” said Bogaerts."

The Red Sox will be going home if they don’t win this final series in Washington and it may require a sweep to lock up a Wild Card spot. Even then, a one-game playoff with Seattle at Fenway might be necessary to earn a trip to the postseason.

Boston entered their series in Baltimore with an 86.3% chance of making the playoffs, the best odds among the AL Wild Card contenders. Those odds have since dipped to 60.6%, per FanGraphs. That percentage is probably overstating their chances. The Mariners have significantly worse odds at only 29.5% despite that they have won nine of their last 10 games.

If the Red Sox are going to fend off the scorching Mariners and a dangerous Blue Jays club, they need Bogaerts to step up. He’s supposed to be the leader of this team. Based on his recent play, the only thing he’s leading this team to is an early vacation.

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