Michael Chavis

How two words from Alex Cora helped Michael Chavis end homer-less streak, Adrian Beltre-style

michael_chavis.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

How two words from Alex Cora helped Michael Chavis end homer-less streak, Adrian Beltre-style

BOSTON -- Michael Chavis's first home run in over three weeks looked like a tribute to a Hall of Fame-bound slugger who spent one season in Boston and eight in Texas, but as Chavis explained, falling to one knee like Adrian Beltre actually showed he's rediscovering his swing.

Chavis's solo homer to left in the fourth inning of Thursday's come-from-behind 7-6 victory over the Rangers ended a homerless drought at 20 games and 79 plate appearances. His 11th long ball of the season came on a slider from Adrian Sampson that Chavis corkscrewed 352 feet to left at a towering 43 degree launch angle.

He swung so hard, he ended up genuflecting as the ball left his bat.

"That's something that honestly was a good sign," Chavis said. "Whenever I finish on a knee on an off-speed pitch or a pitch that's down, that tells me I'm using my legs better, that I'm using them correctly and staying behind the ball and not trying to go out and get it, so that was honestly a real good sign. I think I even did it on a pitch later in the game as well. Beyond the result, me doing that in that at-bat and getting my swing off, that was a huge sign for me."

The previous three weeks have not been kind. Since hitting a game-winning home run in the 13th inning at Toronto on May 22, Chavis had batted just .197 with five RBIs in 20 games, striking out 35 times and walking only six.

With teams attacking the top of the strike zone at high velocity and then inducing him to chase sliders off the plate, Chavis faced the first extended struggle of his very young career. But manager Alex Cora brought him back with a piece of simple advice.

"It hasn't been very fun, if I'm being honest," Chavis said. "One of the things that helped me get past it -- it's one game where I'm feeling better, so I'm not saying I'm completely back or anything -- but AC actually just reminded me, 'Have fun.' I took a step back like, 'I haven't had fun in a while, if we're being honest.' It weirdly just put me in a better place mentally, helped me relax."

And so when Chavis connected in the fourth inning, he could breathe a sigh of relief. It made sense that he left the park just as he learned to stop swinging for the fences.

"It definitely did feel good to finally connect for a home run, but what's funny about that is the biggest thing I've been working on is trying not to do that," he said "I've been getting so big and trying to do much and the whole mental aspect of it was out of control, so I've just been trying to stay as simplified and controlled as possible. That was not at all what I was actually trying to do, but obviously the way my swing works, I connected well, and so it went."

Chavis has found other ways to contribute during his slump, particularly defensively, where he has exhibited excellent range at first base and made multiple diving stops.

"That's one of the things I've thought this whole process," he said. "I was like, 'If I ain't going to hit, I might as well try to save a run here or there.' That was something keeping me grounded."

Cora's advice didn't hurt, either. Maybe there will even be some more Adrian Beltre in his future.

"I had fun tonight, and I'm just going to keep it going," Chavis said. "I feel like it has put me in a better place mentally. A lot of the stuff that was going on was all mental, trying to do too much, trying to create results and chasing numbers, instead of just having fun. I think I'm in a better spot now."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

How Red Sox could blow this team up if they don't start playing better, and five stars they could trade

cp-dombrowski-cora-121018x.jpg
File photo

How Red Sox could blow this team up if they don't start playing better, and five stars they could trade

BOSTON -- David Price may have been on to something.

Back in April, the Red Sox left-hander issued a warning after a two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium.

"If we don't play better, there's going to be a lot of changes around here," he told the Boston Globe. "I remember when Boston won the World Series in 2013. In 2014, they were trash. Trash . . . If we don't start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded."

What sounded over the top and alarmist suddenly feels within the realm of possibility, even if it's not exactly likely. But if the Red Sox continue nose-diving against their playoff competition, we shouldn't discount the chance of the defending World Series champions placing their finger on the button. Maybe it's time to start thinking about a purge.

On Tuesday night, they delivered yet another dreadful performance in a 9-5 loss to the Rangers. Red Sox pitchers walked eight batters, including five by rookie Darwinzon Hernandez, who should've been nowhere near a big-league mound after posting a 5.13 ERA at Double A and walking more than seven batters per nine innings, but such is the state of the roster that manager Alex Cora had nowhere else to turn.

They allowed an inside-the-park home run when right fielder Brock Holt crashed into the fence near the Pesky Pole chasing a Hunter Pence fly and then just stayed there. They made a pair of errors, including a dropped pop-up by third baseman Rafael Devers that led to the go-ahead run. They handed the game to the dregs of the pitching staff, with predictable results, dropping to .500 at 34-34 in the process. Baseball-Reference now places their odds of reaching the playoffs at 22.6 percent.

"We absolutely have to be better than this if we want to be in the hunt," Cora said.

And so now we wonder: was Price right? Could the Red Sox sell? And if so, how big should they think?

Let's toss around a few names that would normally be considered untouchable, because they're integral to the repeat effort, but what the hell, we're approaching desperate times.

1. MOOKIE BETTS

Trading the defending MVP in his prime is insane . . . unless you're convinced he won't sign a long-term extension, in which case moving him now and starting a rebuild shouldn't be off the table.

Some talented players have delivered massive hauls at the trade deadline, whether it's the Indians turning Bartolo Colon into Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore in 2002, the Rangers flipping Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for future All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison five years later, or more recently, the Yankees very smartly transforming relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman into Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield, among others.

Moving Betts with a year of team control remaining would be waving a white flag on the season, but the Red Sox need to realistically balance the cost of going all-in for a wild card spot vs. retooling to remain competitive moving forward.

And if Mookie is going to walk anyway? Then it's not so crazy.

2. ANDREW BENINTENDI

Some of us (me) have been predicting Benintendi would win a batting title for three years now, but he hasn't really put things together yet. Still only 24, and under team control through the 2022 season, Benintendi would hold tremendous value on the trade market, where he could perhaps address holes in the bullpen, as well as the farm system.

There's real risk in surrendering him, especially when he's in the midst of a disappointing season, but with so much uncertainty on the horizon — Will J.D. Martinez opt out? How much longer will Betts be here? Who replaces Rick Porcello? — acquiring legitimate depth would have a real purpose on a roster that has suffered serious erosion.

3. MICHAEL CHAVIS

The bloom has come off that rose after a hot start, but 10 homers in his first month and positional flexibility make Chavis an attractive target. The Red Sox never expected the rookie to make such an impact; otherwise he would've opened the season on the roster. Now that opponents have found a potentially serious flaw in his swing, attacking him up in the zone with power and inducing him to chase off-speed pitches away, the Red Sox might be best served maximizing his value while they can.

Trading Chavis would leave them awfully thin at first and second base, but another bullpen arm is more important at this point than a strikeout-prone infielder.

4. RICK PORCELLO

If the Red Sox fall in the standings, then Porcello could be an option for contenders seeking an experienced starter, à la Jake Peavy in 2013.

The Red Sox don't seem interested in retaining Porcello — an argument can be made that he should've received the $68 million they gave Nathan Eovaldi — and if they're going to bid him farewell anyway, they might as well get something for him while they can.

As Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel taught us this winter, there's no guarantee a departing free agent will return a draft pick, anyway.

5. DAVID PRICE

He brought it up, so we might as well consider it. Price has already been moved at the deadline twice in his career, going from the Rays to the Tigers in 2014, and from the Tigers to the Jays a year later.

He is the ace of the Red Sox at the moment and coming off a scintillating postseason that erased any doubts over his ability to win in October. He could alter the trajectory of the postseason if he's moved. He's owed $96 million through 2022, when he'll be 36, and even if the Red Sox eat a lot that money, removing him from the books while adding younger, cheaper talent would give them more flexibility to retain players like Betts or Martinez.

Hey, it was his idea.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Red Sox-Rays Game 1 lineups: Chavis at 1B, Martinez out, Bennintendi sits

betts_chavis_53119.jpg
File photo

Red Sox-Rays Game 1 lineups: Chavis at 1B, Martinez out, Bennintendi sits

The Red Sox play two against the Rays today (1:05 p.m. and 6:05 p.m.) at Fenway Park and will be without first baseman Mitch Moreland for at least another 10 days after he was placed on the injured list with a quad injury just a day after returning from the IL. J.D. Martinez (back spasms) is still out and Andrew Benintendi sits against a lefty.

Martinez left the game in Kansas City Thursday with back spasms. Christian Vazquez serves as the DH and Sandy Leon will catch right-hander Josh Smith, up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make the spot start.

Here are the full lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts, RF
Michael Chavis, 1B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Rafael Devers, 3B
Christian Vazquez, DH
Eduardo Nunez, 2B
Sam Travis, LF
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Sandy Leon, C
--
Josh Smith, RHP 

RAYS
Austin Meadows, RF
Tommy Pham, LF
Brandon Lowe, 2B
Avisail Garcia, DH
Ji-Man Choi, 1B
Yandy Diaz, 3B
Kevin Kiermaier, CF 
Willy Adames, SS
Travis d’Arnaud, C
--
Ryan Yarbrough, LHP 
 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.