Michael Chavis, the Red Sox' breath of fresh air

Rob Bradford
May 16, 2019 - 6:56 am

There have been other walk-offs.

The guy gets the hit. The guy is chased around the infield by his teammates. The guy happily answers questions in the Fenway Park home clubhouse, allowing for smiles all around. This is usually the routine that comes and goes within the windmill of a Major League Baseball season.

Somehow it felt different when Michael Chavis did it in the Red Sox' 6-5, 10-inning win over the Rockies Wednesday night. Then again, Chavis has had a way of making it feel like we've been splashed by a bucket of cold water. (For a complete recap of the win, click here.)

"It was awesome honestly," said Chavis after driving home the winning run with a single up the middle. "I hit first base -- and I had a couple walk-offs, it's not like it's something I've never done before --  and I kind of just forgot what to do honestly. I had my helmet, I was like do I throw it, do I keep it, do I hand it to somebody, I don't know. I turned, got tackled by Mookie (Betts), gave him a hug. So that was great, honestly. I'm a big hugger. I get that from my mom."

Who knows how this Chavis thing is going to play out?

He is a rookie who is doing everything asked and more. The infielder is hitting .296 with a .986 OPS and seven home runs, playing second base well enough to not make anyone uncomfortable (as was evident by the play he made earlier Wednesday night.)

But as we were reminded by Chavis' recent 0-for-19, good times can come and go when you're relying on a rookie. But for now, what he represents has been just what the doctored ordered ... across the board.

On the field, he has helped turn around a spot in the Red Sox' order that was painful for the first few weeks. And perhaps most encouraging for what lies ahead is Chavis' ability to pull himself out of the uncomfortable times. He did it in that first week of the Triple-A season, and he repeated the feat the last three days. After a gift-wrapped bloop single Sunday, breaking that aforementioned hitless stretch, the Sox have been returned the same threat which had crept his way up into the meat of the lineup.

No hits in 19 at-bats have turned into 15 at-bats that have included seven hits.

"You could say that," said Chavis when asked if that bloop against the Mariners helped change his way of thinking. "I do feel a little bit more comfortable. Any time you start collecting a couple of hits, you definitely get a little more confident, a little more comfortable. But a lot of it is just kind of the consistency. It’s not so much the results that I’m feeling more comfortable, it’s more so the swings that I’m putting on pitches and the takes that I’m having. I’m more comfortable and more confident in those. They’re better swings, better takes, and it’s just more of a progression thing where I’m not quite where I want to be, but I’m staying focused on the process and the results are coming."

Then there is the kind of image he represented while executing what is becoming a regular routine -- the stand in front of the big TV postgame press conference.

No cliches. Genuine enthusiasm. Little sense of dodging and weaving.

Chavis explains himself in the same fashion Rafael Devers offers us those always-refreshing Little League mannerisms in the batter's box and on the basepaths. They actually manage to put a dent in our inevitable baseball cynicism.

Take, for instance, the description of what he was feeling after Xander Bogaerts' first-pitch single and Devers' intentional walk.

"You know, in the situation. There’s nobody out, a man on second base, you move him over, get a little, something like that. It’s just, I don’t know who I am, dude. I’m new here," Chavis explained. "I know I can hit, I know I have power, stuff like that, but I’m hitting seventh. I don’t know if I’m hitting like Michael, or if I’m like your seven-hole hitter, so I’m just trying to do my part."

And then there is the actual execution against a seven-year big league veteran, reliever Chad Bettis.

"Honestly it's kind of a simple story, unfortunately," he said. "With Devers walking I didn't really even get to see a pitch. I was literally walking out of the dugout and asked what pitches he threw. I've never faced him before so I didn't really know what to expect. So I was just walking up there and knew he had a cutter and a fastball. But a cutter, slider, that kind of stuff everything is working away. So I was just trying to get him up and get a good pitch to hit and not try to do too much with it. Standing in the box right there, I'm looking at (third base coach Carlos) Febles and all I'm thinking is don't let me bunt. I wanted to hit. So he didn't tell me to bunt thankfully. Got a good pitch to hit, first pitch cutter and didn't try and do too much. One of the other things I was thinking was a single scores him. Don't try and be a superhero and hit a home run or anything like that. Just need one."

He added, "Nobody out. He's kind of in a tough spot. One of the things I kind of learned when I was younger was in those kind of situations a lot of people feel the pressure because you want to do the big thing, you want to get the big hit and stuff like that. I've kind of learned to kind of just change the perception of it, where the pressure is on him. He's got two guys on, nobody out, he could blow it right here. He needs to get me and two other people out. So if I kind of just change my perception to thinking the pressure is on him it kind of alleviates me and puts me in a better position."

For now, Chavis is the Red Sox' second baseman. They are 14-7 when he starts -- with the offense averaging better than eight runs per game in the wins -- and that is tough to ignore. Maybe he morphs into more of a role at first base. Or perhaps he ends up actually seeing some time in the outfield. For now, the Red Sox just need to ride the wave, just like they did in this latest win.

Perhaps Bogaerts summed it up best before clearing out of the Sox' clubhouse: "Homeboy is swinging it pretty good."

From the pitching side of things, reliever Marcus Walden proved to be the standout once again, coming on to pitch a key 2 1/3 key scoreless innings, retiring all seven batters he faced. Walden has a 0.54 ERA in his last 10 appearances, striking out 10 and walking just one.

Related: Sox Daily podcast, Ep. 29: Ice, Ice (Horse) Baby

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