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Rafael Devers Delivering for Red Sox

Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers

Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

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Rafael Devers and the Red Sox spoiled Shohei Ohtani’s birthday party on Monday.

On a day when Ohtani turned 27, the Red Sox opened up a three-game series in Anaheim with a 5-4 victory. Devers was the star of the game at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBI. Christian Arroyo also homered in this one in his first game back from a knee injury. Ohtani had a chance to play hero with the tying and go-ahead runners on base with two out in the bottom of the ninth, but he grounded out sharply into the shift to end it.

The win was the Red Sox’ 10th over their last 11 games as they maintained a 4.5-game lead over the Rays in the American League East. Their 54 victories are a major league high.

Devers’ two-run dinger off of Dylan Bundy in the fourth inning gives him 21 on the season, a number exceeded only by five other players. He also drove in a run with a single and now has 71 RBI on the season. That’s the best mark in baseball.[[ad:athena]]

Devers’ Statcast numbers jump off the page, as well. Entering Monday, his 55.9 percent hard-hit rate ranks in the top three percent in baseball and would easily be a career high for the third baseman. He’s also got a 16.7 percent barrel rate (top five percent), 93.1 mph exit velocity (top six percent) and an xwOBA of .516 (top four percent). As good as Devers’ numbers are, his expected stats say he’s actually been a bit unlucky.

Following a disappointing showing during the truncated 2020 season which saw Devers post a sub-.800 OPS, he was often taken after the likes of Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon among third basemen. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the 24-year-old would be selected ahead of all three guys if your draft were held today.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Kwang-Hyun Kim vs. SF – 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 2 K

Counterpart Kevin Gausman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Monday at Oracle Park, but it was Kim who wound up emerging victorious. The left-hander made it through a season-high and career-high-tying seven scoreless frames in the Cardinals’ 5-3 win. Kim has posted a 2.39 ERA over his last five starts.

Wily Peralta vs. TEX – 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K

Yes, that Wily Peralta. The 32-year-old hadn’t made a start in the majors since July of 2017 prior to the Tigers giving him a shot last month, and on Monday he turned in one of the best outings of his career. Peralta has now turned in 17 scoreless innings dating back to the end of his first start back in mid-June. It’s surely not going to continue, but it’s fun to see Peralta resurface and have some success.

Bailey Ober vs. CWS – 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 7 K

Ober held the White Sox off the scoreboard for five innings on Monday to net his first major league victory. The tall right-hander still has just a 4.85 ERA in his first seven major league starts, but he’s posted an impressive 33/9 K/BB ratio across 29 2/3 innings. Ober is a flyball pitcher, so home runs could continue to be a problem. He’s got a nice minor league track record, though, and has added velocity this season.

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Hitters with an EDGE

Ben Gamel vs. ATL – 3-for-5, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R

The Pirates had a rare blowout win Monday against the Braves, with Gamel leading the charge. The multi-homer game was the second of the 29-year-old’s career, and the six RBI were a career high. Four of the six home runs Gamel has hit this season have come in five games this month. Gamel has become a regular for the Pirates of late and is even batting in the middle of the order against righties.

Max Kepler vs. CWS – 2-for-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R

Kepler put up his first multi-homer game of the season and 10th of his career on Monday as the Twins bested the White Sox. The outfielder was dropped lower in the Twins’ batting order upon his return from a hamstring injury last month. He has not been productive lately on the whole, although he has now gone deep three times in his previous two games.

Josh Bell vs. SD – 3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI

The Nationals were able to bang out 12 hits and seven runs against Joe Musgrove and the Padres’ bullpen Monday. It was Bell who led the way, even homering from his much weaker right side off southpaw reliever Tim Hill. He still finds himself on the bench regularly against lefties, which can be frustrating, but Bell has turned his season around since a sluggish April, batting .288 with 10 home runs over 186 plate appearances since May 1.

Priority Pickup

Jon Gray, SP, Rockies

Gray went down with a flexor strain in his right arm early last month, but since his return he’s struck out 15 while yielding just two runs over 11 innings of work covering two starts. Coming up next on the schedule for Gray is a matchup against the lowly Diamondbacks on Tuesday in Arizona. The Rockies will be hoping Gray can continue to show he’s healthy and in a groove leading up to the trade deadline later this month.

Closing Time

Anthony Bender pitched around an error to close out the Marlins’ 5-4 victory over the Dodgers on Monday. It was the first career save for Bender, who has proved to be quite the find for the Marlins after he spent 2019 and 2020 in independent ball. The 26-year-old has yielded just two earned runs over 26 1/3 innings this season, good for a 0.68 ERA. He also boasts a 34/7 K/BB ratio over that span. Yimi Garcia was surely unavailable after throwing 38 pitches and giving up four runs in an inning of work Sunday in what was his second day in a row pitching. Garcia has had a fine season overall and should still be the closer for now, but he’s been shakier over the last month or so. Bender should be rostered in pretty much every league.

Emmanuel Clase suffered a blown save and his second loss in as many days Monday, failing to record an out as the Indians fell to the Rays. The Rays didn’t exactly knock him around, scoring two runs on three singles, an intentional walk and a fielder’s choice. It was extra painful, though, given that it was Cleveland’s seventh straight loss and ninth loss in 10 games. Co-closer James Karinchak tossed a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts Monday.

After Taylor Rogers struck out four over 1 2/3 scoreless innings ahead of him, Hansel Robles pitched around a hit and a walk to preserve a three-run lead and net a save in the Twins’ win over the White Sox on Monday. Robles had been scored upon in each of his previous four appearances, but it doesn’t appear manager Rocco Baldelli wants to remove the reliever from high-leverage situations.

With Matt Barnes needing a day off, the Red Sox turned to Adam Ottavino in the ninth to preserve a lead against the Angels. It wasn’t easy, as Ottavino walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a two-out RBI single as the Angels pulled to within one. However, with the tying and go-ahead runners on, Ottavino got Shohei Ohtani to ground out to second base (really, it was short right field as the Red Sox were shifting). Ottavino needed 30 pitches to get through the frame. He has seven saves on the season.

Tuesday’s Matchup of the Day

Nathan Eovaldi (BOS) vs. Shohei Ohtani (LAA)

Ohtani will be looking to bounce back from his worst start of the season, as he was charged with seven runs over just two-thirds of an inning last week in Yankee Stadium. He had entered the outing with a 2.79 ERA and 37/9 K/BB ratio over 29 frames covering his last five starts. Eovaldi, meanwhile, is coming off arguably his best outing of the season, having tossed seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the Royals. He’s permitted just one run over 14 2/3 frames in his last two starts.

American League Quick Hits: Franmil Reyes filled the stat sheet Monday versus the Rays, going 3-for-5 with a homer, a double, five RBI and a stolen base … Yasmani Grandal had to leave Monday’s game versus the Twins after straining in left calf … Jose Rojas went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI Monday against the Red Sox … Manuel Margot went 4-for-4 at the dish before exiting with a hamstring injury Monday … Eddie Rosario is expected to land on the injured list after aggravating his right abdominal injury … Chris Sale (elbow) will throw a two-inning live batting practice session Tuesday in what’s expected to be his final live BP before starting a rehab assignment … Mike Trout (calf) was able to do some hitting off a pitching machine on the field Friday … Nelson Cruz remained out of the lineup Monday after hurting his neck following a violent sneeze … Zach Plesac (thumb) will rejoin the Indians’ rotation on Thursday versus the Royals.

National League Quick Hits: Sixto Sanchez will undergo season-ending surgery to repair the posterior capsule of his right shoulder … Kevin Gausman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning but was saddled with a loss after giving up a couple runs to the Cardinals … Alec Bohm doubled and homered as the Phillies routed the Cubs Monday … Ke’Bryan Hayes went 2-for-5 with a two-run shot as the Pirates blew out the Braves … Tyler Megill struck out seven over five innings of one-run ball Monday against the Brewers … Jonathan India had to be scratched from Monday’s lineup due to right ankle soreness … Lorenzo Cain (hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment later this week … The Cubs signed Robinson Chirinos to a one-year contract … Sammy Long (back) landed on the IL Tuesday … Brandon Belt (knee) started light baseball activities on Monday.