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Monday, September 21, 2015

On Big Papi's big night, a new Red Sox hero continues his rise

What Papi saw: Bogaerts celebrates at home.

During pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park honoring his 500th home run, David Ortiz punctuated his short speech by telling fans, "Let's hit some more bombs!" 

A few hours later, as Ortiz watched on deck, Xander Bogaerts took Big Papi up on his offer.

Bogaerts, who continues to emerge as the leader of the next generation of Red Sox players, hit a slider from Brandon Gomes for a grand slam in the eighth inning as Boston continued its string of strong play with an 8-7 win over Tampa Bay. As if to further emphasize Bogaerts' ascendance, his shot cleared the Green Monster in left field just a few feet to the left of the big "501" cards held up by fans to note Ortiz's current home run total.

Pedro and Papi had fun during the pre-game

Coupled with a run-scoring double high off the Monster in his previous at-bat in the seventh, Bogaerts had a 2-for-5 night with a career-high 5 RBI. The 22-year-old shortstop is now hitting .323 as he continues a late-season quest to overtake Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in the American League batting race. Cabrera, who went 1-for-4 in a 3-2 Detroit loss to the Chicago White Sox, is at .337.

An inning after his hitting heroics, Bogaerts showed another facet of his five-tool skills -- diving into the hole at short to grab a hard grounder off the bat of Tim Beckham and then spinning his body and throwing a perfect strike to first to help thwart Tampa Bay's final rally.

Will Bogaerts hit 500 home runs in his career? That remains to be seen. But in pushing the Red Sox out of last place for the first time since June 2 -- and to a 20-11 record over the past five weeks -- he is giving Fenway fans a glimpse at what might be his own long career of big hits.   

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