Anyone who has watched Kyle Schwarber take ground balls at first base understands why he celebrated a routine play vs. the Rays on Sunday.
Before every game, Schwarber works out at the first base bag, and he still doesn't look comfortable. He boots grounders, he drops throws, he tries not to let his frustration get the best of him.
But still he works, because the Red Sox need his bat. He proved that again in Sunday's thrilling 6-4 victory over the Rays in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, leading off with a homer as part of a 3-for-5 night that will be remembered not for anything he did with his bat, but how he reacted after making a rare play with his glove.
Schwarber had already muffed an easy toss to Nathan Eovaldi in the second inning -- underhanding the ball, oh, 35 feet over the pitcher's head -- when he fielded a similar grounder in the third and this time converted the relay.
Rather than pretend the moment deserved stoicism, Schwarber reacted like a Little Leaguer finally making a clean play at short, thrusting both arms over his head, giving a little Rene Rancourt fist pump, and then doffing his cap to the crowd, which erupted while his teammates howled.
"You've got to be able to make fun of yourself every once in a while and loosen the situation up," Schwarber said. "Obviously, being new over there at first base, you make the error, and Nate picks you up. Unbelievable job by Nate. You go out there and make the good old routine play and loosen it up a little bit. I think I got a laugh out of pretty much almost everyone. It's a game."
For Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Schwarber's self-deprecating display of humility captured part of what has brought this team to the brink of a monumental upset.
"That was awesome," he said. "That's who they are. That's what we do. Of course we wanted to make the first play, and after that he makes the play, and everyone was excited because he did it. He did what he did, and I think it was great. Sometimes we take this game too seriously, and you can actually not enjoy it. Although we take it seriously, we also have fun with it.
"We've been having fun for a long, long time. We love the group. We love what we do. We're having fun, and here we are."