Third-base coach Carlos Febles held both arms in the air, overtly signaling for his runner to stop, but shortstop Xander Bogaerts blazed past the prudent instruction with hopes of reaching home.
Soon it became clear Bogaerts himself wasn’t too confident in his choice, as he craned his head to check on the status of the ball. Sure enough, it was on its way to catcher Meibrys Viloria, who would tag Bogaerts out at home and end the bottom of the first inning.
With the Red Sox riding an eight-game losing streak into Monday night’s game against the bottom-dwelling Kansas City Royals, the sense of urgency was high. Manager Alex Cora said before first pitch that if the team can win each of its remaining 16 series, then the defending World Series champions would be in “a good spot.’’
“We have to do it,’’ Cora said. “We can’t talk about it the whole time, like, ‘We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine.’ No, no. Right now, we’re not fine and we know it.’’
So, Bogaerts wanted that run.
He didn’t get it.
Given his performances this season, Bogaerts is hardly deserving of any criticism — even in spite of his base-running blunder. But he quickly remedied the situation, and his risky decision proved to be inconsequential.
At his next at-bat, in the third inning, Bogaerts drove in Boston’s first run of the game for an early 1-0 lead. With runners on first and third and no outs, shortstop Nick Lopez couldn’t field a hard-hit ball, allowing right fielder Mookie Betts to score. The thumper, which had an exit velocity of 105.4 m.p.h., earned Lopez an error and Bogaerts his 85th RBI of the season.
Bogaerts now has 20 RBIs and is batting .346 in the team’s 25 games since the All-Star Break. During that span, he also ranks among the league’s top-5 players in hits, runs, and total bases. His totals only continued to grow on Monday, as he crossed the plate in the seventh, after reaching base on a four-pitch walk, thanks to Andrew Benintendi’s second double of the day.
The production, however, isn’t the only way Bogaerts has been contributing. Despite going hitless in Boston’s four losses against the New York Yankees — an 0-for-15 skid that he snapped in the first inning on Monday — Cora identified the 26-year-old as one of the players that has stepped up as a leader during the team’s recent stretch of struggles. Cora specifically highlighted his approach to the situation as well as his support for the group.
“He’s been very honest, very genuine about it,’’ Cora said. “We made a huge commitment to this guy. He’s playing the part, not only on the field but becoming a leader of the team.’’
After signing a six-year, $120 million contract extension in April, Bogaerts appears to be living up to his billing. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who also began his major league career in 2013, noted his teammate has been more vocal in the clubhouse.
“He’s talked a little bit more than he normally does,’’ Bradley said. “I think he’s been able to speak his opinion a little bit more than he normally would.
“As we all get older, we get a little bit more mature. He’s a year older. He’s a year more experienced. With that comes growth.’’