Bogaerts shines while making Red Sox history

Bogaerts shines while making Red Sox history

OAKLAND — It couldn’t have been more perfect if it were a classic baseball movie.

Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate in the top of the fourth inning. He watched two four-seamers from A’s starter James Kaprielian go by — one down and in, the other just a touch outside. The third pitch, however, was right over the heart of the plate — and Bogaerts squared it up, launching it deep to left field for a solo shot.

Fittingly, Bogaerts drove in the first and last runs of Boston’s 7-2 win over Oakland, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs. The homer itself wasn’t otherworldly — 389 feet, 102.8 mph off the bat — but it perfectly highlighted a historic night for Bogaerts.

With his start Friday night, Bogaerts has now played 1,094 career games at shortstop, breaking a franchise record that lasted for over a century. He passed Everett Scott, who played for the Red Sox from 1914-21. Bogaerts and Scott are currently tied for the most career starts at short.

“It means a lot to us,” manager Alex Cora said. “We’ll wait for the celebration tomorrow because tomorrow’s another big day for him.

“Just showing up every day, it means a lot to us, it means a lot to his teammates. It means a lot to the city of Boston.”

Ask around the Red Sox clubhouse, and one word repeatedly comes up to describe what Bogaerts means to this club: consistency.

“Something that defines him is consistency,” center fielder Kiké Hernández said. “He’s as consistent as they get, and I’d say that’s both on and off the field — at the plate, on defense, in the clubhouse, same guy every day.”

Bogaerts has long been a fixture in Boston. He signed with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent out of Aruba in 2009 and made his Major League debut four years later, appearing in 18 games in the 2013 regular season. But it wasn’t until Boston’s magical World Series run that fall that Bogaerts became indispensable in the lineup — and he hasn’t looked back.

It’s not just the sheer number of games that jumps out about Bogaerts’ feat — it’s also that he did it at shortstop. Shortstop is a grueling position, and there was initially some doubt about Bogaerts playing there every day in the Majors.

“When I came up, there was a lot of talk about, maybe I’ve got to switch positions,” Bogaerts. “I’ve got to give a huge credit to the coaching staff and obviously the organization for believing in me and giving me that opportunity.”

Four Silver Sluggers, three All-Star selections and two World Series rings later, Bogaerts is reliable as ever. In 2022, he leads American League shortstops with 33 runs and is second in extra-base hits with 20, trailing only Toronto’s Bo Bichette. His 62 hits lead all MLB shortstops.

And what does Bogaerts think of his numbers so far?

Probably not much, Cora said. One standout quality is that Bogaerts always strives to be better. Through 51 games this season, Bogaerts is slashing .325/.394/.492, good for the third-highest OPS on the team. He won’t sing his own praises, but Cora is more than happy to do it for him.

“He’s just a humble kid that loves to win games. He did his part — hit the homer, hit the double, played solid defense,” Cora said. “There’s only one man in the big leagues that can say his shortstop is Xander Bogaerts, and it’s me. And I’m proud of that.”

The feeling is mutual among Bogaerts’ teammates. Though he’s just 29 years old, Bogaerts is the longest tenured member of the Red Sox, and his teammates — old and new, young and old — say they look up to him both on and off the field.

“What you see is what you get,” Bogaerts said. “It’s very cool for those guys to see that and speak like that.”

Christian Vázquez, who has played alongside Bogaerts since they were teammates in the Minors in 2011, summed up the impact clubhouse leaders like Bogaerts have in a few simple words.

“When they go,” he said, “we go.”

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