Alex Verdugo Robs Homer, Hits Two of His Own in Red Sox Victory


We had seen the catch before, but we hadn't heard the scream.

And with the yell -- which could be heard all from the warning track in front of the visitors' bullpen all the way up to the press box -- it was clear the Red Sox had a new right fielder.

"Yeah, it was pretty loud," Mitch Moreland said with a smile after the Red Sox' 5-3 win over the Blue Jays Friday night. "I’m sure it happens but usually we got fans in the stands so you can hear it a little better now. He was fired up. We were all fired up. That was a great play."

"I would say, I don’t know if I’ve ever really screamed like that after a catch, even with fans," Verdugo admitted. "With fans, it’s like, 'Wooo, let’s go.' But that one was like, I just had to kind of let it out. You could hear even when I catch it, like, 'Aahhhhhhh!'"

Mookie Betts had these games. Heck, he was having one in Los Angeles almost at the exact moment Verdugo was punctuating his two-home-run, one-great-catch evening at Fenway Park. They both run about the field and around the bases with the kind of spirit most big-leaguers left behind in high school. And then there are the accouterments, with necklaces flailing about with each player's action.

But Betts isn't Verdugo and Verdugo isn't Betts. And it stretches well beyond just the fact the new guy's chain is a gold and diamond piece highlighting his No. 99, not the simple plastic bat and ball the Dodgers' star still wears 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Thanks to this night and this performance, Verdugo was finally able to start separating himself.

He wasn't able to offer his feelings before, but he sure was relaying them now. That was part of his night's reward.

"Because I’m not replacing him," said Verdugo when asked about becoming the heir apparent to Betts. "Yeah, he played here but this is a game. This is a business. He decided to go elsewhere. I’m not replacing him. That’s what you guys say, that’s what everybody else says. I’m going out there and playing right field, I’m playing my game, I don’t think about Mookie. I think he’s a great player, he did a lot for Boston, he’s going to do a lot for the Dodgers.

"I think about me being here and what I’m going to do and what I’m going to bring to this team. It’s not a comparable thing. I don’t like comparing it. I don’t like when people bring it up. but obviously the nature of the trade, it’s going to happen. People are going to say it. I’m going to play my game, I’m going to go out there and compete and bring the energy that I bring. That’s how I’ve always been and I don’t care about shoes to fill, anything like that. I’m playing my game."

Such signature moments where players finally feel like themselves after switching organizations aren't all that uncommon.

Former outfielder Torii Hunter used to talk about the eighth game of his Angels career when he hit two home runs (one a grand slam). It was on that day against the Indians he admitted was the moment he finally felt like his old team the Twins had been put in the rearview mirror and was officially accepted by his new club.

This was that kind of day for Verdugo.

"No question. You’re right," said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke when asked if this was that type of moment for his outfielder. "You come to a different organization. You want to impress them right away. Sometimes it happens but in most cases, it usually doesn’t. You have a night like tonight, you can see it. You can see how excited the guys were for him. Hopefully, we just continue. You don’t know who you’re going to feed off of. You can feed off of anybody. Maybe this sparks the whole team and we get it going. I know we didn’t get a whole lot of hits. Obviously he was a huge part of why we won."

Betts hit a home run Friday night, but for the first time this season New England baseball fans were too busy to notice. Verdugo was busy distracting them.

"No. Not at all. It doesn't bother me," he said regarding the Betts comparisons. "It's one of those things I think it's weird the media, fans, everybody wants to bring it up like it's such a big deal. To me, I don't think of it like that. He's not here. I'm not replacing him. Yeah, we're part of a trade. Whatever. We're out there playing games. We're competing. I don't think about it. I don't know people want me to say I do because I don't. Do I watch him? DO I watch baseball around the league? Yes, I watch everything. I love baseball. I love watching it. To go out there and feel some sort of pressure or to feel some type of way about myself, like I need to show something. I need to hit homers or to rob homers all the time to fill this void that Mookie left. No. I don't have that. My job is to get on base, to try and make this game a little bit easier for the guys coming up behind me and in front of me."

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