Daniel Nava rounds the bases after hitting his sixth-inning grand slam Sunday. (Getty Images)
(For the final month of the regular season, ‘Closing Time’ will be called ‘Why you should have cared,’ looking beyond the final score ‘ at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) ‘ for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)
It is no mystery what these last two weeks will be all about for the Red Sox. It’s the same thing they’ve been about since the end of July.
It’s time for what players that are left on this Red Sox roster to offer the right kind of impressions heading into the next games that will count, the ones starting the 2015 season.
Sunday, in the Red Sox’ series-ending 8-4 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, it was Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts who continued to make their cases.
Nava gave the visitors the lead for good with a sixth-inning grand slam, coming with the effects of food poisoning still lingering. It was just the outfielder’s second non-Yankee Stadium home run of the season.
“Just the situation of the game,” Nava told reporters regarding his first-pitch homer. “I’ve faced that guy before. He’s got good stuff. It wasn’t necessarily that I was swinging at the first pitch. I was looking for a pitch in the zone to hopefully drive. It didn’t have to be a baseball. I knew he had a slider and a changeup as well. I wasn’t sitting on a particular pitch. It was just in the zone, and fortunately I got that.”
Since returning to the Red Sox for good — when he re-entered the lineup on June 4 in Cleveland — Nava has resembled the same player the organization fell in like with a year ago. During that stretch, the switch-hitter has hit .304 with a .375 on-base percentage.
Nava’s slugging percentage is down from ’13, totaling four homers and 18 doubles. The lack of punch is the reason his OPS has taken a hit from the impressive .831 mark of a year ago.
But there is a reason Nava continues to earn playing time, even with the emergence of Mookie Betts and the additions of Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo (who is expected to join the Sox Tuesday). As Sunday exhibited, he has continued to show he can be a valuable player on a winning team.
The same can officially be said about Bogaerts.
Bogaerts teamed with his fellow 21-year-old, Betts, at the top of the batting order to total five hits in nine at-bats, each scoring a pair of runs. The shortstop went 3-for-4 with four RBI.
In the 16 games he’s played since returning from his concussion, Bogaerts is hitting .359 with a .998 OPS (the best of any regular shortstop over the stretch).
“Maybe it was a good time to reflect and get away from the game for a bit after all the struggles I was going through, that’s what I think helped a lot,’ Bogaerts told reporters regarding his concussion-induced time off.
“Well, what he and Mookie are doing at the top of the order has been impressive,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “For the age they are, the stage in their career they are, it’s very impressive to see two young guys of that age performing as they are, as consistently as they are. Mookie with some excellent baserunning, but those two guy at the top of the order have done an excellent job.”
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OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT SUNDAY’S GAME:
- David Ortiz had to leave KC early, but he is expected to be back with the team before it plays again.
Farrell explained after the win that Ortiz was forced to leave in the seventh — with Christian Vazquez coming on to pinch-hit — due to a family emergency. The manager noted that the designated hitter was expected to be back with the Red Sox before their series-opening game against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
- The Red Sox played the role of spoiler fairly well during their four-game stretch against the Royals, taking three of four while bumping KC out of first-place in the American League Central.
“No, no, no,” Royals manager Ned Yost quickly responded when asked if his club could afford such a series against a team with the record of the Red Sox.
The Royals are currently 1 1/2 games in back of the Tigers in the AL Central, although they currently own the second wild card spot (1 1/2 games behind Oakland, and one game in front of Seattle).