BOSTON -- Fourth months ago, Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts was languishing in the minors, two rungs away from the big leagues.
Now, he's going to the World Series, after beginning the 2013 season at Double-A Portland, getting promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 13, and joining Boston's active roster on Aug. 19.
"It's unbelievable. I shouldn't even be here," Bogaerts said. "The minor league season is over but I'm very blessed to be here. I definitely can't wait for the World Series. Man, I was so nervous the last inning. [Red Sox closer Koji Uehara was] in there throwing strikes, strikes, strikes and it was unbelievable. I had goose bumps all the time. It's unbelievable."
The 21-year-old infielder was given an opportunity to contribute when Red Sox manager John Farrell decided to start Bogaerts at third base in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. The young phenom produced, going 1-for-3, including a double, a walk and a run scored.
Farrell said it was an easy decision to keep Bogaerts in the lineup for Game 6. Once again, he rewarded his manager's faith, helping the Red Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Tigers on Saturday night at Fenway Park to clinch the American League pennant.
Bogaerts provided a two-out double off Tigers starter Max Scherzer in the bottom of the fifth inning and scored Boston's first run on Jacoby Ellsbury's RBI single. Bogaerts also drew two walks in the game.
After Friday's off-day workout, Bogaerts knew he would be in the starting lineup, so he went home and watched video of Scherzer since he had never faced the Detroit ace. In his first at-bat in Game 6, Bogaerts worked the count full and drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the third inning.
"He's an amazing pitcher," Bogaerts said. "The first at-bat I took two fastballs because I wanted to see his angle, see where the ball comes out because I'd never faced him and he's got a weird angle. But I ended up having a good day and we won.
"The 2-2 pitch I took off of Scherzer my first at-bat, I felt something weird. I even started laughing afterwards. I don't know why but it's something weird why I took that ball. It's a ball everyone would swing at."
In his second at-bat, Bogaerts made Scherzer throw six pitches before he crushed a double off the left-center field wall near the "B Strong" logo. The ball nearly cleared the wall.
"Man, I wish it was gone," Bogaerts said. "Wow. I guess it was a series of only doubles for me."
He has reached base in eight of 11 postseason plate appearances. His three hits have all been doubles and he has drawn five walks. He's also scored in five of six games during the playoffs.
With Bogaerts adding a youthful spark this postseason, it's similar to how Ellsbury, then a rookie, produced during the 2007 World Series run.
Ellsbury got only one at-bat during the divisional series that year, but made an impact in the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians. He really broke out during the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, going 7-for-16 with four doubles, three RBIs and four runs in four games.
"I was on the bench and I was just itching to get in the game, hoping my number was called. I was willing to do anything," Ellsbury said after Saturday's victory. "Guys on this team are doing the same thing. It's just a fun group of guys to go into battle with."
Ellsbury has been impressed with Bogaerts.
"You just think of the at-bats that he's had, he has a lot of poise and it's been fun to see. It just shows the team has a lot of confidence in him to start him in these big games like this," Ellsbury said.
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino also made the connection between Ellsbury and Bogaerts.
"We saw a spark like this in 2007 when Jacoby Ellsbury came up in the postseason. Xander just has maturity and talent and poise, I can't say enough about him," Lucchino said. "He played like a veteran in very tense and important circumstances. It's a great process, it's great to watch the process of his maturation in front of our very eyes."
Since veteran Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew has struggled at the plate in the postseason, there was some thought that Farrell would insert Bogaerts at short. Instead, the manager thought it best to have the rookie play third the last two games instead of Will Middlebrooks.
"Everybody knows how talented [Bogaerts] is," Drew said. "In big situations, big games he's done a great job. The coaches have confidence in everybody and this team is fun to be a part of. It's awesome."
Bogaerts' ability and future potential allowed the Red Sox to trade shortstop Jose Iglesias at the deadline in order to acquire pitcher Jake Peavy. So, it was almost fitting when Iglesias made a crucial error in the bottom of the seventh inning that set up Shane Victorino's grand slam.
"He's worked his tail off to get here as quickly as he has and certainly he's got the personality that just works really hard and focuses on the moment. He's shown that here today," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett.