The 2019 season may feel disposable, but there's one reason we'll look back on it fondly -- Rafael Devers.
Just as Nomar Garciaparra gave 1997 meaning and Mookie Betts ultimately made 2015 worth suffering through, Devers has stamped 2019 as a campaign to remember, even if everything else about the team's performance we can't forget soon enough.
In Wednesday night's loss to the Giants, Devers made history by blasting his 30th homer. Still only 22 years old, he joined Xander Bogaerts as the only teammates with 30 homers and 50 doubles in a season.
He did it with a screaming line drive into the first row of seats in the right field corner to break up Jeff Samardzija's no-hit bid with two outs in the sixth. The swing was quintessential Devers, a vicious rip on a fat cutter that left the park at over 111 mph.
It's the kind of swing we've seen him pulverize mistakes with all year, and it suggests even better days lay ahead.
"He's put it all together," said manager Alex Cora. "The most important thing is that he's not pleased with what's going on with us. That's the most important thing. He can go 0 for 6 and we win and you always see him smiling on that line until the game is over. Or we win and he doesn't make a play, he puts his teammates in a bad spot, he's upset about it. I think it was the game he went 6 for 6 in Cleveland, he was upset because he didn't make a play. And that's who he is and we're very proud of him. That's the mentality that we have to have as an organization. Be a winner. It's funny because the other day he's like, 'Oh this is the first time I'm not going to be in the playoffs' I'm like, 'Dude, you only have two and a half years in the big leagues so you'll be OK.' But he made some adjustments in the offseason and it's paying off."
For his part, Devers was happy to reach home run No. 30, which came 15 days after No. 29.
"I wasn't that anxious about 30 home runs," he said. "I was just trying to make contact on the ball as usual. It wasn't something that was really on my mind. I just made the adjustments I needed to make. I know it's been a while since I've hit one. Watching film, seeing the adjustments that I needed to make in order to do that, but really making contact.
"I had to just control the strike zone more, figure out my pitch selection, what to swing at because that's really what I struggled with," he added. "I was still confident at the plate. It was really what I was swinging at that caused all the issues."
Devers noted his close relationship with Bogaerts and what it meant to join him in the 30-50 club.
"I'm extremely happy, especially for him," he said. "He's one of my closest friends. To be able to do that with him feels really special for me. Obviously we just have to continue to play the game together and try to break as many records as possible. It's pretty special."
Special is a good way to describe Devers' 2019. Amidst a sea of injury and underachievement, he managed to shine with an infectious enthusiasm and joy that gave this forgettable season a reason to be.
Next up in 2020: marrying individual achievement with a return to the playoffs.
"Obviously this isn't the season that we've envisioned for our team," Devers said. "That's something that sticks with me more as opposed to personal accolades. I'm just glad some of my other teammates are achieving milestones for themselves as well."
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