J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Xander Bogaerts is a star, in case you haven't noticed

John Tomase
September 26, 2018 - 5:52 pm

He's the forgotten star of the Red Sox, and make no mistake, he's a star.

In Wednesday's opener against the Orioles, shortstop Xander Bogaerts set career highs in home runs (22) and RBIs (100) to pace a 19-3 blowout. The second number in particular catches the eye, since it makes him only the sixth shortstop in Red Sox history to hit the century mark.

But the truth is he has been building to this moment all year with the kind of play that manager Alex Cora believed he had in him even last year when Bogaerts was hitting .059 in a Division Series loss to the Astros.

"First of all, he's talented," Cora said. "He finished strong and he really bought into what we want him to do as a hitter. Just try to drive the ball and do some damage. Obviously with the traffic he has in front of him, there was a reason I wanted him to hit fifth, right behind J.D. (Martinez), because I felt those guys were going to be, there was going to be a lot of traffic and he's taken advantage of it."

It's more than that, though. After two straight years watching Bogaerts wilt in the second half, he has not only maintained his production, but improved down the stretch.

After a monster April was cut short by a freak broken bone, Bogaerts returned in May and scuffled, batting just .220. His OPS has increased every month since, however, from .705 in May to .821 to .900 to .901 and now .941 in September.

He may not earn the headlines of MVP favorites Mookie Betts and Martinez, but he belongs in the conversation for best offensive shortstops in baseball alongside Cleveland's Francisco Lindor, Houston's Carlos Correa, and Colorado's Trevor Story.

"Bogey kind of flies under radar, with Mookie and J.D. stealing all the headlines," said starter David Price. "For Bogey to drive in 100 runs and that's hitting after J.D., who has driven in almost 130 runs, which means J.D. isn't leaving a whole lot of guys on base for Bogey to drive in. So that means Bogey has come up with a lot of big hits with runners on base. He's swung the bat extremely well with the bases loaded this year, and that's always big. The year that Bogey's had has been huge."

And so when Bogaerts ripped a pitch to the camera well in center to account for RBIs Nos. 99 and 100, Bogaerts couldn't help but feel proud.

"It's probably one of the best accomplishments I've had so far," he said. "Especially to do it in that way and in a win, I think it's even much better. I never envisioned doing it until probably later on in the season, when I kind of looked up and like, "Wow, there's a chance." Then I just tried to put my mind to it."