Mitt

Sox are soaring … so long as they stay grounded

Alex Cora hasn’t had much to grouse about during the season’s baby steps. His ballclub has performed better than most outside observers expected. Its pitching has been solid. Its run production has straddled the border of prodigious.

They’ll bask in the glow of Opening Day at Fenway a blip behind the Yankees. Ah, just like old times.

Friday night, Cora endured his first real reason to worry. Trevor Story’s injury, which potentially could shelve him for a large chunk of the season, takes away his starting shortstop.

No one expects Story to snatch the Gold Glove away from Yankees phenom Anthony Volpe, but he was judged the best they had at short. That in itself suggests a defensive issue. 

Saturday night, Cora couldn’t help but snarl just a bit when Rafael Devers waved a bounding ball through to left field in the eighth, scoring the two runs that California/Anaheim/Los Angeles needed for a 2-1 win.

Actually, Cora’s snarl wasn’t exactly full-throated. He called it a routine play. Knowing the sensitivity of modern ballplayers, Cora quickly backtracked and sort of defended Devers.

And no one who saw it could argue that a competent big-league third baseman would routinely convert it into an out.

That isn’t to say Devers is a hopeless third baseman. He occasionally does seem to be an indifferent third baseman.

In his early days in the big leagues, Ted Williams is said to have practiced his swing when he grew bored in left field. That stopped relatively quickly, once he grew up enough to know big leaguers don’t do that.

He still, no doubt, thought about his swing from time to time roaming in front of The Wall. Maybe Devers spends idle moments at third base thinking about his swing, or something else that has little to do with bounding balls with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 1-0 game.

Devers isn’t the Red Sox’ only potential problem defensively, just the most recent guilty party. They made 102 errors last season. They are hopeful of improving on that, but when a botched play at third costs you a win in Game No. 9, it will churn bad memories.