Can this Rafael Devers kid save the Red Sox' season?

Rob Bradford
August 19, 2019 - 8:53 am

The Red Sox won Sunday. They swept the Orioles. There were still plenty of sad trombones to go around.

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The guy David Dombrowski signed up to be the top-of-the-rotation ace for the next five years, Chris Sale, was packing his bags to visit Dr. James Andrews.

Another pitcher the Sox were counting on to slide into the elite portion of starters, Nathan Eovaldi, offered a really uncomfortable outing, giving up five runs over just two innings.

Even the hope that the Rays Wild Card lead over Alex Cora's club might shrink to 5 1/2 games went out the window when Tampa Bay claimed its second straight walk-off win over the Tigers.

A win is a win. But, let's be honest, this was against the Orioles. There were bigger fish to fry.

Through the clouds, however, there was that image. The smiley baseball player bee bopping around Fenway Park giving the feeling that there is still something to pay attention to these days. Rafael Devers has become the hopes and dreams of this team.

One position player isn't going to put a team on his back and manufacture the type of run the Red Sox are starving for with 36 games to play. Typically, if your starting pitcher digs the kind of hole Eovaldi supplied a hitter can go 10-for-10 and it still isn't going to make up the difference. But, once again, this was the Orioles, one of the best gift-givers in Major League Baseball history.

What Sunday did remind us once again is what Devers is doing, and why he may have become the most important player on this team. The 22-year-old went 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and four more RBIs to give him a Major League-leading 101 for the season. He is the first player since Miguel Cabrera in 2005 to manage 100 or more runs and RBI in a season before turning 23, with the last Red Sox to accomplish the feat being a young man named Ted Williams.

"It’s amazing," said Cora. "We go back to April, like people were talking about him going to Triple-A and trying to find it down there. But his on-base percentage was way up there and he wasn’t striking out. So we saw a few things that we liked and he wasn’t hitting the ball in the air. When he found it, he just took off. Just quality at-bat after quality at-bat. He’s a joy to watch."

"I’m running out of stuff to say about him now," said Mitch Moreland of Devers. "It just seems like a bad day for him is 2-for-4 with a double right now. He’s been incredible. This run he’s on right now is fun to watch. Early in the year, he was asking me what we were going to do against pitchers, me and him being left-handed hitters, and here lately I’m like, ‘Look, you tell me what I need to do.’ He’s doing everything right right now. He barrels everything. It seems like every ball he hits is hard, too. He’s special."

The stats have been recited over and over the last few weeks,with Devers living life as a legitimate MVP candidate because of them.

But it's how he's doing it that offers the impression of a player who can make this seemingly impossible situation for the Red Sox somewhat plausible.

Nobody in baseball has more go-ahead hits, with Devers also leading the American League in game-winners. And his 203 balls of 95 mph or better is far and away tops in all the majors. These are the kind of things that make one feel something notable is going to happen when the lefty hitter steps into the batter's box and takes his deep breath. It is the kind of vibe reserved for a select few, as we were reminded a year ago thanks to Mookie Betts. My childhood example? Jim Rice in 1978.

It helps that he isn't alone, living a good life in the No. 2 spot (where Devers has totaled a gaudy .370 batting average since being moved up behind Betts). He has the reigning MVP in front of him, and another Top 5 MVP candidate in Xander Bogaerts making sure there aren't a whole lot of intentional walks or pitching around. Then comes the suddenly red-hot J.D. Martinez. The strength of this team has undoubtedly become the first half of the lineup, with Devers currently representing the captain of that four-man ship.

It is, however, understood the third baseman won't be able to make up for starting-pitching shortcomings every day. And for that reason, the idea of watching Devers continue this unforgettable run in October still seems like a longshot. But he is the one, perhaps above everyone else, who is keeping the door cracked open just a bit.

The Red Sox are still hanging off a cliff. Fortunately for them, they have a kid named Devers holding the rope.

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