BOSTON — For all that has gone right for the Red Sox so far this season — and there’s been quite a bit — one big issue manager Alex Cora has had is finding a productive leadoff hitter.
In game No. 60 of the season, Cora might have finally found his man. Christian Arroyo looked like a leadoff hitter in Monday’s 5-3 victory over the Marlins at Fenway Park.
As part of a 2-for-3 day in which he reached base three times, Arroyo scored twice and drove in two.
After a late night of traveling back to Boston from New York after a thrilling sweep against the Yankees, this was a day the Red Sox needed some energy in a makeup game that was postponed eight days ago.
They got it from the man who batted first.
“Obviously, any time we play this game, I give it my all,” said Arroyo. “You never know. Knock on wood, you never want it to happen, but it could be your last game. Injuries and stuff happen. Every time I’m on the field, I try to put it all on the field.”
It was Arroyo who started a rally with a double to right in the bottom of the third and motored home when Alex Verdugo followed with a double on a day the Red Sox ran their winning streak to five games.
An inning later, Arroyo and Verdugo again looked like a comfortable 1-2 combo. Arroyo roped a two-run single and scored from second on Verdugo’s base hit, making a strong read as Marlins right fielder Adam Duvall airmailed his throw to the plate.
Later in the game, Arroyo worked a walk and made a terrific diving stop at second base to take a hit away from Jorge Alfaro.
The performance by Arroyo, even if for just one game, was a significant development for a team that entered the day with the following numbers from the leadoff spot: A .241 average (21st in MLB), a .291 on-base percentage (26th) and 40 runs (tied for 13th).
Arroyo is 9-for-27 with four doubles in the leadoff position this season, and Cora sounds like he wants to give this experiment some room to breathe.
“He did a good job going the other way. He stayed on pitches, went the other way, worked the count,” said Cora. “Tomorrow is a lefty [starting against us], [Arroyo will] be playing and most likely leading off, and see if he stays hot.”
You have to appreciate Arroyo’s seize-the-moment mentality. A first-round selection of the Giants in 2013, Arroyo spent the last few seasons trying to establish himself as a Major Leaguer.
Finally, he is gaining momentum. For the season, the right-handed hitter has a line of .301/.350/.441 in 102 plate appearances. In 305 plate appearances prior to 2021, Arroyo’s line was .219/.283/.360.
Sometimes it is simply about opportunity and health. The Red Sox are giving him the opportunity. And other than the annoyance of being hit twice on the left wrist in the span of a week, which forced him to spend 16 games on the injured list, Arroyo has stayed healthy.
“It’s been a rough couple years as far as injuries and stuff, bouncing around a little bit, but it’s fun to come in and help a really solid all-around-talented ballclub,” said Arroyo. “We come to the field every day and we’re in every game. We have a chance to win every single night.”
And right now, their best chance to win might be with Arroyo batting first.
At some point this season, electrifying prospect Jarren Duran could well arrive at Fenway and become the leadoff hitter. But it’s still too early to know when that will be or how quick of an impact he can make.
Meanwhile, Arroyo is having the best time of his baseball life.
“It’s an encouraging feeling to be a part of this and help this team win,” said Arroyo. “It’s unparalleled, especially here in Boston. There’s so much history here. It’s just fun. It’s been awesome. I want to keep rolling onto the next day and keep going and going and carry this thing as long as we can. Hopefully, at the end of the season, we’re the last ones standing.”