Travis Shaw (right) picked up his first big league hit in Tuesday’s win. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
In calling up Travis Shaw after optioning Steven Wright back to Pawtucket, the Red Sox presented Shaw with another opportunity. He had been given a chance twice earlier in the season — once at the beginning of May and again in the middle of June.
He had been unable to capitalize so far, but on Tuesday night, as the Sox pieced together a 4-3 comeback win over the Marlins, Shaw got his first major league hit, and there’s a ball in his locker saying so.
“When you go back down and it’s just like ‘ugh,’ you missed an opportunity to get that first hit,” he said. “That’s what everybody searches for, but this year’s been a little different for me. I’ve never experienced any of the up and down stuff or the come up here and not play as much as you used to, so it’s, for me, just trying to stay in a rhythm as best as I can so I’ve been able to do that. I’ve been grateful for my opportunity up here so far and just hopefully we can keep this rolling.”
But Shaw’s night didn’t end with his single to right-center field in the second inning. He recorded hits two and three of his career as well, both of which were singles. The second one had enough on it to be a double, hitting off the center field wall, but Shaw tripped rounding first and fell down. Shaw said he just tried to replicate the same strategy in every at-bat, trying not to do too much and getting pitches in his zone that he could hit.
It wasn’t a question of comfort, though. There wasn’t anything inherently different about the way he approached the plate than when he had in his previous appearances when he was 0-for-9 to start his career.
“Honestly it’s been the same,” he said. “I’ve hit two or three, four balls hard before and just haven’t had any luck, just hit it right to guys so tonight though, obviously once you get that first one the confidence level goes up.”
Manager John Farrell echoed the first baseman’s sentiments, noting that he liked the look of Shaw’s swing even before his hits.
“When he was with us previous, he took some good swings on some pitches and you get a chance to see a guy over a couple of spring trainings and you see their confidence, their maturity — his has come a long way in the two years that he’s been in big league spring training,” he said. “He’s balanced and he’s staying through the middle of the field pretty well.”
Shaw hadn’t been up with Boston until this year, spending his time in the Red Sox‘ farm system before finally breaking through this season. While he is primarily a first baseman, he has seen some time at third base since coming into the Red Sox system and embraces the chance to show his adaptability.
“Versatility’s always good,” he said. “I mean, you look at Brock Holt. He’s an All-Star now with being able to be versatile. Being able to play third for me is huge, I think for this team, if somebody goes down at multiple positions that gives me another opportunity to play a different position. I’m not locked in just at one.”
One of Shaw’s strongest influences when it comes to baseball is his father, Jeff, who is a former major league relief pitcher and two-time All-Star. Tuesday also happened to be his birthday, and Travis spoke of the way he’s helped him hit.
“He’s been one of the biggest hitting coaches I’ve had my entire life,” he said. “He’s seen me grow up, he’s seen my swing evolve, and obviously he’s a pitcher, so he sees a different side of it than I do.”
At a pivotal point in the Red Sox‘ season, now five games back with a series against the division-leading Yankees on tap for this weekend, Shaw said the chance to step in, with Mike Napoli struggling, is huge for him.
“I was just trying to make the most of it tonight so being able to contribute three hits, get a couple runs, it was big for me, big for my confidence level,” he said.