Michael Chavis was just what doctor ordered for Red Sox

Rob Bradford
April 21, 2019 - 7:21 am

This Red Sox season has had a very distinct feel. It's that vibe you get when waking up to face another day is simply about punching the clock and hoping that Groundhog Day fog will lift. They won the World Series and now, six months later, they are seemingly trudging through life with very little reason to spring out of bed.

Who knew that Michael Chavis was going to the one who actually offered an opportunity to turn the page?

Chavis is an outgoing sort, a trait that was evident when jumping on the Red Sox radio broadcast the day he was introduced at Fenway Park with the 26th overall pick in the 2014 MLB amateur draft. The persona might have taken a hit after being popped for PEDs last season, but the infielder's presence was still a welcome one when immersing himself into the big league spring training clubhouse.

And now? Well, the 23-year-old has emerged as absolutely the right guy at the right time. He is new. He is intriguing. And most importantly, he seems to be pretty good. That was evident when it counted the most Saturday night. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' 6-5 win, click here.)

Facing one of the best closers in the game, Tampa Bay's Jose Alvarado -- he of the high-90's sinker -- Chavis dug into the batter's box after being summoned to pinch-hit for Sandy Leon with the game tied and Jackie Bradley Jr. at first base. After working the count to 1-2, the righty hitter absolutely tore into low 99 mph two-seamer, rifling a 109 mph line-drive over the head of Tampa Bay center fielder Kevin Kiermaier for one of the season's signature moments.

"My backyard growing up, in my house we had a garden, and I can’t tell you how many times I envisioned that scenario there, pinch-hitting for the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning off a closer who is nasty and getting a hit,” Chavis told reporters, including the Boston Herald. "I’ve tossed rocks in my backyard pretending I was in this moment. So I looked around and was like, ‘Wow.’ 

"Then with two strikes, thankfully Alvarado called time and I didn’t have to. I had two strikes on me and I felt my knee shaking, I’ll be honest. But he called time so I had a second to step out, gather myself before the next pitch. Wow. It’s been wild. It really has been."

These moments won't be able to pop up each and every day. Chavis still has some work to do, and his role figures to be that of a part-timer until Eduardo Nunez is ready to return.

But what the rookie did was allow for the Red Sox to celebrate the here and the now instead of last October. The game-changing moments supplied by Andrew Benintendi (grand slam), Rick Porcello (5 2/3 innings, 2 runs), Marcus Walden (2 batters, 2 strikeouts) and the game-ending pickoff throw by Christian Vazquez to first baseman Steve Pearce were able to be surfaced with the Chavis story serving as the jumping off point.

"There’s no lack of confidence," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora of Chavis. "You see him moving around and he belongs. We saw that in spring training as far as the offensive upside, the way he controls the strike zone. First big league at-bat against maybe the best closer, him and (Josh) Hader, amazing they don’t give up anything. To hit a low line drive off the center field wall, that was impressive."

About that throw from Vazquez ...

With the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead and runners on first and second for the Rays against Ryan Brasier, the Red Sox' catcher made the decisive play of the game.

"I saw on the foul ball on the pitch before (Tommy Pham) had a big lead, and I gave the sign to Pearce," Vazquez told reporters. "Why not? If (Wily) Adames got a hit, it's a tie game. We got the chance, and we did it."

Related: Red Sox place Nathan Eovaldi on injured list