BOSTON -- Before there could be the fist-pumping dramatics turned in by Jonny Gomes in the sixth inning, there had to be Xander Bogaerts.
Three batters before Gomes, the Red Sox rookie third baseman hammered a James Shields cutter into the first row of the center field bleachers for a two-run home run that cut Kansas City's lead to 4-3. It was a positive sign for the mohawked 21-year-old who has been mired in an offensive slump that has dragged on for nearly a month-and-a-half and dropped his average to a season-low .235 coming into Friday.
His seventh home run was his first extra-base hit since he homered in a 10-3 win over Cleveland on June 13. It snapped a career-long 89-at-bat homerless drought.
"It’s good to put some runs up on the board, get some RBIs to help out the team," Bogaerts said. "It was a great win overall."
Bogaerts finished the night having reached base three times (once on an error) with two RBI and a run scored. For Red Sox manager John Farrell -- and certainly others around the organization -- the hope is that it was the kind of night that will allow him to relax at the plate going forward.
"Hopefully this gives him a chance to breathe a little bit," Farrell said. "It's his first extra-base hit in a while. Hopefully it allows him to see some of the work he's been doing pregame, and the video work, and the countless conversations with [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn], with [assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez], to see it play out with a timely home run should be a boost for him."
When Bogaerts has run into trouble this season, it's been when he's become over-aggressive. His anxiousness led to his timing being disrupted, which threw off the mechanics of his swing. There were times when he would be down in counts, and he was beaten as soon as the opposing pitcher spun some kind of off-speed pitch toward the plate.
If he didn't strikeout, the contact was weak. But Friday's home-run swing felt much different.
"That was pretty good, staying inside the ball," Bogaerts said. "I was trying to hit something the opposite way. Just my bat [has been] just trying to roll over a lot of stuff, and that’s a bad feeling. But I’ll take that one every day."
Farrell agreed that Bogaerts' blast was the result of the hard-earned reparations to a broken swing.
"He stayed behind the ball, where in a number of swings, we see him get out to his front side and he's kind of lunging forward," Farrell said. "There was good leverage to his swing. And to drive the ball out of the ballpark to center field, you've got to have some things work correct in your swing and that was the case tonight."
But don't count on Bogaerts completely ruling out the role of superstition as he attempts to turn things around. He went without batting gloves on Friday, which could be a change he features as long as he's hitting.
And then there's that mohawk, which is relatively new. Is it somehow helping, he was asked in jest?
“I don’t know," he said. "But I’ll probably keep it though.”