Mitch Moreland is a survivor.
He joined the Red Sox in 2017 after seven years in Texas to help fill the void left by the retirement of David Ortiz. The following winter, when baseball players muttered about collusion and talents like J.D. Martinez remained unsigned into spring training, Moreland read the market perfectly by signing a two-year $13 million extension to guarantee he wouldn't be left in the cold.
He made his first All-Star team in 2018 and blasted the pivotal homer of the postseason, a pinch-hit three-run blast that led the Red Sox to a Game 3 victory over the Dodgers. He returned last year for what looked like his Red Sox swan song, bursting out of the gate before injuries limited him to 91 games.
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It turns out he wasn't going anywhere. He inked a one-year, $3 million deal in January with a club option for 2021, and all he has done since is keep the Red Sox afloat in the wide-open American League.
On Sunday that meant homering once in the second to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead over the Blue Jays, and again in the ninth to give them a 5-3 walkoff victory.
At 6-9, the Red Sox only trail the White Sox by two games for the eighth and final AL wild card spot. With the pitching inconsistent until this weekend and the offense in hibernation since the opener, the Red Sox have Moreland to thank for not being buried already.
"I mean, we've got a lot of great players here," Moreland said. "All of them at some point or the other have stepped up and done their part to carry the team. It hasn't just been one guy or the next. We've got a lot of great players.
"If you're seeing the ball well, obviously that's going to help the team. Everybody's going to do that, even at some point this year. Guys are going to get on a roll. I'm happy I'm able to kind of step up and help tonight, but I don't approach it that way and I don't think they do either. Once they get in that groove, we'll be fine."
How essential has Moreland been? He's hitting .323 with a team-leading six homers and 12 RBIs. Only three players have hit more homers this year -- New York's Aaron Judge (8), burgeoning San Diego superstar Fernando Tatis (8), and Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos (7).
Meanwhile, the rest of the Red Sox offense is stuck in first gear, if it can even turn over the engine at all. Andrew Benintendi is hitting .056. Rafael Devers is at .175 and J.D. Martinez .196. After a hot start, Jackie Bradley Jr. has fallen to .238.
The Red Sox need the Morelands of the world to deliver until the mainstays find their form. It's a role he has filled before -- he slammed eight homers last April when the Red Sox were otherwise scuffling -- but his production is usually curtailed by injuries.
Manager Ron Roenicke acknowledged recently that Moreland's legs had been bothering him, which partially explains why he has only started eight of the team's 15 games. The Red Sox have used him in a platoon, mostly with the right-handed Michael Chavis, to ease the wear and tear.
"Obviously I've always had to fight some nagging stuff here and there," he said. "Would I like it differently? Yes, I would love to feel great every day. At times, the legs are a little heavy and I have to grind it out. (Roenicke's) done a great job communicating with me and we're a good team.
"We're solid all the way through, so different guys can get in there and pick up the team, too, and we have to realize that it's going to take everybody to get us to where we need to be."
If the Red Sox hope to reach the playoffs, then the big guns need to start doing their part. In the meantime, Moreland will help keep their head above water.
Without Mitch Moreland, Red Sox season might already be in toilet originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston