Xander Bogaerts' future with the Boston Red Sox may be uncertain, but he certainly has goals to achieve as his team plays out the string of an underachieving season.
Bogaerts has his sights on his first career batting title and he'll continue his pursuit of the milestone when the Red Sox open a two-game set against the host Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Bogaerts entered Monday's play with a .316 average, which was tied for second in the American League with Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Luis Arraez of the Minnesota Twins has a league-best .317 average.
Bogaerts said the batting title race will keep him focused down the stretch of a lackluster season for Boston (71-75).
"I'm not going to sit here and lie to you," Bogaerts told reporters. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But I'm aware of it.
"A couple of weeks back, I wasn't really in the conversation, but I'm that guy since I put myself in it. It's something that's in reach. I feel like I just try to get more locked in and I'm going to try to go for it. That's how I've always been."
Bogaerts, who turns 30 on Oct. 1, has three seasons remaining on a six-year, $120 million contract but can opt out after the season. Negotiations between Scott Boras and the Red Sox haven't yet produced a new deal.
The four-time All-Star has 14 homers and 68 RBIs in 137 games this season, his ninth full season with Boston. And he is currently on a hot streak that has seen him bat .418 (33-for-79) with four homers, seven doubles and 18 RBIs over his past 20 games.
"Just all around, the last few weeks have been impressive," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters of Bogaerts. "Driving the ball, taking what they give him, being more selective in certain counts. Obviously we love the fact that he plays every day. The way he goes about it. I always said, he's the most consistent person in this organization. It's fun to watch."
Cincinnati (58-89) is also winding down a poor season. The Reds' 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday was just their second in the past 11 games.
Cincinnati is taking a look at outfielder Stuart Fairchild, whose homer on Sunday was his fifth in 46 at-bats with the club. He went 2-for-4 in the win.
Fairchild, 26, spent time with the Seattle Mariners (0-for-3) and San Francisco Giants (0-for-8) earlier this season but is batting .283 in his 24-game cameo with the Reds.
"We know he can play. We know he can hit," Reds manager David Bell said of Fairchild. "The back-to-back starts with the lefties helped, and he came out (Sunday) and contributed in a big way."
Cincinnati rookie left-hander Nick Lodolo (4-6, 3.81 ERA) will be on the mound Tuesday after striking out a career-best 11 without a walk in each of his past two starts.
Lodolo, 24, beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 9 when he gave up two runs and five hits over eight innings. He lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates last Wednesday when he allowed three runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings.
Lodolo has fanned 31 in 20 1/3 innings over his last three outings.
Rookie right-hander Brayan Bello (1-6, 5.10) will take the mound for Boston.
Bello's lone win came when he blanked the Texas Rangers on three hits over six innings on Sept. 3.
The 23-year-old lost his last two starts. He gave up three runs and three hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 9, and he yielded three unearned runs and six hits over five innings against the New York Yankees last Wednesday.
--Field Level Media