The weeks following the MLB All-Star break are a time to get serious, but Xander Bogaerts says the Boston Red Sox got the jump on a lot of teams in Major League Baseball. The defending World Series champions have had an uneven 2019, with questionable bullpen outings and an explosive offense meeting to put a team loaded with talent squarely in the Wild Card hunt at the midway point of the year.
But Bogaerts says a disastrous and highly-publicized road trip may be the key to turning things around.
“I think our All-Star week started a couple weeks back when we went to London,” Bogaerts told Uproxx by phone after the real All-Star Game. “We got beat up by the Yankees and fell a bit behind.”
The trip to London was a bit of a disaster for Boston, flying all the way to England to give up 29 runs over two losses to a team they’re chasing in the American League East. For Major League Baseball, the trip was a huge success: the stadium was packed, fans were loud, and the offensive explosion looked great. But for the Red Sox, it was an opportunity to take a beating and reset for the second half.
“We had two important series before the All-Star break where we needed to win a lot of games and we actually pulled that off,” Bogaerts said, pointing out that the Sox took two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays and swept the Chicago White Sox. “I think at that time we noticed that we needed to pick it up big time because sometimes we’d win a game and then lose another one. But we have to go on runs now.”
The little things have seemed hard for the Red Sox this year, a far cry from a 2018 campaign that had the magic of a championship early on. But there’s time to turn it around, and Bogaerts has done all he’s can to keep a 51-44 team afloat in the playoff hunt. Bogaerts leads the Sox in HR (21), RBI (74), and OPS (.974). He was a late addition to the All-Star team, but it’s clear he’s been the best player on a Red Sox team that’s more worried about its bullpen than offense.
“We need to play like that against teams that have a winning record,” Bogaerts said. “It’s kind of on us to play like that against the best teams in the leagues.”
It didn’t go exactly how Bogaerts hoped against the Dodgers in Boston’s first series back from the break. He homered in each game of the series, but Boston could only manage to win the first game of three against the best team in baseball. The series included a Saturday night bullpen blowup and Sunday night’s 12-inning game in which the Red Sox had the winning run in scoring position with less than two outs in three straight innings but failed to win.
The Red Sox got two long breaks at the midway point of the season, which is rare in Major League Baseball. To that end, Bogaerts spoke by phone the day after the All-Star Game as part of a promotion he’s doing with the tourism board in Aruba, saying one thing that always surprises people about his home country is that it’s far more than just a few nice beaches.
“When you’re on an island like that you might think ‘Ah, there’s the beach and then there’s pretty much it,’” He said. ” But there’s the beach, there’s catamarans, there’s tubing. Wind surfing, parasailing. There’s so many activities you can do.”
For the Red Sox, though, there won’t be any more time for fun activities, and if they have a good second half their off-season will be delayed by a chance to repeat as World Series champions. Series against Toronto and the Baltimore Orioles are a good place to pile up the wins, but Bogaerts pointed to the 14 straight games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees — both ahead of Boston in the AL East — in late July and early August that could make or break the season.
“Those are probably going to be the biggest series of the season,” Bogaerts said.