S T. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Michael Chavis needs to stay.
And after what he did to the most dominant pitcher in the majors on Saturday night, one could argue that he needs to start playing regularly.
Los Rayos closer Jose Alvarado entered the day after facing 36 batters this year while allowing only four hits, all singles, while striking out 16 in 9 scoreless innings. His three-digit sinker has a late move and right-handers have attacked in the middle of his plate appearances against him.
Then the rookie climbed, making his Major League debut in a game tied in the ninth inning. And hit, on a 1-2 count, Chavis hit a missile directly from the center field wall for a double. His helmet went flying as he slid into the second. He pumped his fist and looked at the Red Sox dugout.
That was the spark that the Sox have been looking for.
Chavis's key shot pushed Jackie Bradley Jr. to third, Bradley scored with a sacrifice fly from Andrew Benintendi and the Red Sox took a 6-5 victory over the Rays in the first place.
The Red Sox have finally captured a series win, their first seven attempts this season, and have the opportunity to sweep Sunday.
When the cameras went on for his first postgame interview, Chavis smiled and said, "I'm going to turn off the professional mode, that was amazing, honestly, I just need a second, you are all here at this moment with me and I need to celebrate. really cool."
After 3 ½ weeks of playing mainly dry baseball with only moments of excitement, the Sox, now 8-13, have a 23-year-old rookie who plays the game with the energy and excitement of a Little Leaguer.
"Growing up in my garden, in my house we had a garden, and I can not tell you how many times I imagined that scenario there, hitting the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a closer that is nasty and a blow," Chavis said. . "I've thrown stones in my garden pretending I was at this moment." So I looked around and said "Wow."
"Then, with two blows, fortunately Alvarado called me the time and I did not have to do it, I had two punches and I felt my knee was shaking, I'll be honest, but he called at the time, so I had a second to go out, meet before of the next release, Wow, it's been wild, it really has been. "
Saturday's game was one that looked like it would count as two, with the Red Sox with a 5-0 record in a Benintendi grand slam in the second inning, only to return the five races and see the Rays tie the game, 5 -5, in a single shot in the eighth.
Bradley had been caught in a losing streak, but he hit a single to Alvarado to start the ninth. Tzu-Wei Lin could not get a serious touch: "I'm sorry for him, that's hard against that guy," manager Alex Cora said, and made the first out.
Chavis fell behind 1-2, then got a low sinker, 99 mph, and smoked it. The ball jumped from its bat at 109 mph, the most hit ball by any Red Sox player in four days. Kevin Kiermaier tried to track him in center field, but he went over his head and hit the wall.
"I know he does not burn a lot and he's a Golden Glover, and I thought, 'If you catch him, I'll fight with you,'" said a jubilant Chavis. "I'm just kidding, but I knew I caught him pretty well, I knew he was pulling hard, I knew I caught a barrel, I was just praying it would go through his head."
The double was Alvarado's first extra-base hit this year. The right-handed hitters had previously been 3-for-25 with 13 strikeouts against him.
"He hammered him," said Benintendi. "Obviously he can hit a fastball, he made a good swing on a slider and that thing was 93."
Christian Vazquez said of Chavis: "He has pop, he can hit, no surprise, I think he's going to hit the big leagues."
It seemed that all the Red Sox players in the dugout were standing screaming for the rookie.
"And against Alvarado, that guy is totally unpleasant," said Rick Porcello. "We've been grinding so much that it did not matter if it was (Chavis) or someone else, we needed that bad punch, he got ahead, that's what we need, we need more, we need the guys to step forward, a huge lift for us.
The Red Sox have not pulled anything from second base throughout the year. They entered Saturday in the 30th position with minus-1.0 WAR, 30 with a .129 average and 30 with an OPS of .319 from the position. They doubt playing with Chavis there because he has only five experience games in the minor league position.
Cora said Chavis will be in the lineup somewhere on Sunday. He did not say where. But Chavis looks like what the Sox need.
"There is no lack of confidence," said Cora. "You see it moving and it belongs. We saw him in spring training to the offensive side, the way he controls the strike zone. The first big game in the league against maybe the best closer, he and Josh Hader, it's amazing that they do not give up anything. Hitting a low line on the wall of the central field, it was impressive. "
Chavis made sure to put the baseball in a special place.
"I'll give it to my mom," he said. "She does a lot for me, playing travel ball is expensive and it takes a lot of time, my mom took extra jobs to pay me to play ball travel, I can not thank her enough, being here, you're going to make me cry" .