BOSTON -- Put a 20-year-old on the front end of a double-steal that would involve a 235-pound catcher swiping home against the Yankees on national television? Why not?
Xander Bogaerts loved his manager's call in the Red Sox's 9-2 win Sunday. With the Sox holding a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning, there was a lot on the line at that specific moment.
Bogaerts, who is ranked the Sox's No. 1 prospect, leaped off first base as soon Yankees starter Ivan Nova threw home. Catcher Chris Stewart took the bait and his off-the-mark effort felt short of second base. Meanwhile, Jarrod Saltalamacchia had already made his way to home, and in the process became the first Red Sox backstop to steal home since Gary Allenson did it in 1980.
"We had a pretty good idea that they were going to throw through," Saltalamacchia said. "And if they didn't, we were going to get caught. It was a do-or-die play. As soon as Stewart came out of the crouch to throw the ball, I just kind of went."
Saltalamacchia has stolen four bases in his career.
"With my speed, it just kind of took over," he joked. "I mean, Jackie Robinson, [Jacoby] Ellsbury, I'm in a pretty elite category."
Kidding aside, it was a big spot to put a rookie in during a close game. When the throw bounced in the dirt, Bogaerts had the wherewithal to sprint to second and steal his first career base.
"I've been having a few games against the Yankees, so hopefully that trend continues," Bogaerts said.
Versatile Nava turns in four-hit night vs. rivals
BOSTON -- Whether it is his still underrated offense or his vastly improved defense, Daniel Nava's importance to the Red Sox has taken on many facets.
The bat took center stage in Sunday night's 9-2 walloping of the Yankees, as Nava put together a 4-for-5 night.
"I'm trying to relax as much as I can," Nava said. "For me, I know my game and my game is more relaxed -- my head stays stiller, less movement and hopefully that allows me to make more solid contact."
Nava thrived in the No. 2 spot in the batting order Sunday and held down right field on a night Shane Victorino got the night off.
Usually, Nava starts in left and hits in the middle portion of the batting order. But his versatility -- be it in the field or in the batting order -- has made Nava a key member of the 2013 Red Sox.
"I don't know that it can be overstated," said manager John Farrell. "I was just having a conversation with a couple of guys in the batting cage during early work, and we have a number of guys that have that versatility. It gives us a chance to get some guys off their feet."
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Nava learned how to play first base on the fly during Spring Training, and he has become pretty adept at it. So much so that Farrell likens Nava to the equivalent of two players who occupies just one roster spot.
"We can match up inside a game and move him from the outfield to first base," said Farrell. "It opens things up. It doesn't keep us pinned in to strict defensive spots with every player. He can play corner outfield, first base, DH, and at the same time, by OPS, he's the 11th-most productive outfielder in the whole game. He's having a heck of a year."
Put Nava's numbers in a vacuum (.306 average, 11 homers, 63 RBIs, .392 OBP, .844 OPS) and they'd be solid.
But when you consider where he has come from, it makes his work seem even more substantial. The Red Sox, if you remember, pried Nava away from independent league baseball for $1 back in January 2008.
Nava was originally an equipment manager in college before transferring to a junior college so he could play.
"I'm sure all players who know what his story is will look to that [for inspiration]," Farrell said. "But I think it's also important for us that we can never fully measure what's inside a given player and their willingness to work and overcome some of those shortcomings. That's why you never give up on a guy that shows you some talent. And if they are given enough opportunity and time, they can overcome some things."
After setting franchise strikeout mark, Napoli ejected
BOSTON -- Mike Napoli earned his first career ejection in the Red Sox's 9-2 victory over the Yankees on Sunday night at Fenway Park.
After striking out looking to end the sixth, and setting the new franchise record for strikeouts in a season, Napoli appeared to share a few words with home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa while walking toward first base. Before Napoli could turn around, he had been ejected.
The 31-year-old had never been tossed in his eight-year career -- much of which was spent as a catcher in close proximity to the man in blue.
His 178th strikeout passed the Red Sox's old record of 177, set by Mark Bellhorn in 2004.
Napoli also hit his 22nd home run of the season earlier in the game.
Bogaerts drawing rave reviews during apprenticeship
BOSTON -- Will Middlebrooks is dealing with the flu, and that gave Xander Bogaerts the rare chance to start two days in a row, this time at third base.
There will come a time in the not too distant future when it will be news when Bogaerts doesn't play, but at this stage of his development, the club's No. 1 prospect is soaking in his environment and capitalizing when he is called on.
It happened again on Sunday, as Bogaerts went 2-for-3, including a rocket double to the opposite field in right during the Red Sox's 9-2 win over the Yankees. He also scored twice, drew a walk, was part of a double steal and made a spectacular lunging grab of a line drive.
Bogaerts is pleased that he's been able to perform even without regular playing time.
"My timing went off a little bit for a while," Bogaerts said. "It's something you have to deal with. That's why you take extra BP and stuff like that so you keep yourself and baseball skills in shape."
Manager John Farrell has been thoroughly impressed watching Bogaerts handle his first few weeks in the Majors.
"I think he's done a very good job," said Farrell. "Yesterday he made a number of plays at shortstop look very easy. Ground ball that had the potential to lead to a run that he fields far to his glove side on the front end of a double play that we didn't turn but wasn't an easy play, and then the two-hopper that he seemingly just changed direction with the throw. He's a very graceful defender."
Bogaerts is still gaining comfort at third base.
"Right now, he looks more comfortable at short than he would at third, which you'd expect because of the number of games played there," Farrell said. "But he's blended in well. He's been all eyes and ears. He asks great questions. This has been invaluable, the time that he's been here so far. He's got a bright future."
While some players with the advance billing of Bogaerts might have trouble with the infrequent amount of playing time, he has maximized his early days as a Major Leaguer.
"He's a smart kid. He's very respectful, and I mean that in a good way," Farrell said. "He doesn't come across as he knows it all. He's all eyes and ears. I read the article, I forget who wrote the article, but his comment of wanting to be great, that's what you hope every young player aspires to. That means he's going to put in the work."
• With a big lead in the standings, Farrell is able to be more liberal about giving some of his banged-up players some time off. Victorino was out of the lineup for the second time in the past four games on Sunday.
"We've got a number of guys that are dealing with some minor things that they're banged up with," said Farrell. "We'll try to take advantage not only of getting another left-hander in the lineup tonight against Nova, but tomorrow being an off-day, we may look at some things Tuesday and beyond to try to get some guys off their feet a little bit."
• Now that Triple-A Pawtucket has been eliminated from the International League playoffs, the Red Sox will probably add a couple of more players to the roster. Farrell said those additions would happen after Monday's off-day.
Along those lines, Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina will join Boston's coaching staff toward the end of the week.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.