Christian Vazquez Continues To Be An Unsung Hero Of The Red Sox, Goes 4-For-4 With A Go-Ahead Homer

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays

After losing four straight games, there was some unnecessary panic spreading in the streets, mostly because while the Red Sox were losing four straight, the Yankees were gaining ground. A once somewhat comfortable lead was now down to two and a half games. Yankee fans had to be feeling pretty good about that. I came in the office on Monday morning and Hubbs had a shit-eating grin on his face. Barstool JJ was tweeting pictures of rearview mirrors with the Yankees logo and the “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” bullshit, and all that other lame shit that people used on MySpace ten years ago.

Last week, the Red Sox beat Indians ace and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber with Drew Pomeranz on the mound. Last night, the Yankees fell to Kluber with their ace Luis Severino on the hill, who served up three bombs in a losing effort. Pomeranz was again on the mound last night, facing off against the Blue Jays for the third time this season. Pomeranz had allowed one earned run or fewer in his first two starts against Toronto, and although he didn’t have his best stuff on Monday night, he still got the job done.

If there’s any knock on Pomeranz this year, and there haven’t been many, it’s that although he’s now tied with Chris Sale for the league lead in wins (14), and he’s fifth in the league in ERA (3.23), it’s that you still can’t slap the “ace” label on him. And that’s even if Sale weren’t in Boston. The reason for that is the same knock that there’s been on him all along, and that’s that he’s not going to carve you up for seven, eight or even nine innings. He’s averaging 5.1 innings per start this year, and only four out of the 63 qualified starting pitchers in baseball are averaging fewer innings per start than that.

But you know what? That’s okay. Because if you think back to what the expectations were for Pomeranz coming into the year, this season is above and beyond what any of us expected. And that innings per start average was skewed a little bit by a pair of outings that Pomeranz had to exit early with an injury. When Pomeranz is healthy and at his best, you’re likely going to get six really good innings, and I am more than happy with that. On Monday night, Pomeranz went six innings, worked his way out of several jams as a result of five walks, but was “bend don’t break” all night, holding the Jays to three runs, which was good enough for a win.

Offensively, it was a standout night for another guy who came into the 2017 season with relatively low expectations. In the minor leagues, and even in his time at the big league level prior to this year, Christian Vazquez was widely regarded as the catcher who couldn’t hit. Great defensive catcher, drew comparisons to Yadier Molina — hence the “Mini Yadi” nickname — but was expected to hit .240 as a best case scenario.

Last night, Vazquez went 4-for-4 out of the 8th spot in the lineup, and drove in a pair of runs on a two-run, go-ahead homer in the seventh inning. The Red Sox don’t really have a “starting” catcher per se, as Vazquez has played in 77 games, while Sandy Leon has caught 71 games. But in Vazquez’s 77 games, he’s now up to .294 with a .751 OPS. It’s also worth noting that the Red Sox are 44-33 in games that Vazquez appears in, and 37-34 in games that Leon appears in.

Also, over the last month, Vazquez is hitting .429 with an 1.186 OPS in 18 games. Nobody’s talking about that, though. I’m assuming it’s because A) the expectations were low coming into the year, B) he hits at the bottom of the order, and C) there’s no full time catcher so he’s not looked at as an everyday guy. Maybe now people will notice?

One last quick note — after Sunday’s game, I laid out some numbers to illustrate how poorly Hanley Ramirez has performed this year in the situations that he’s being paid to deliver in, and I questioned how John Farrell could continue to pencil him in as this team’s cleanup hitter. Apparently Farrell was seeing those same numbers, because he moved him down to seventh in the order in the series opener against Toronto. Hanley responded by going 2-for-4 with a couple of runs scored.

It’s too late to save his season. Even if he gets hot over the last month, 2017 will be looked at as an overall disappointing season for Hanley. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t still get hot and greatly impact this team’s final destination. Despite how poor his overall performance has been this year, he’s still the biggest impact bat in that lineup. Hopefully getting moved down to seventh serves as Hanley’s wakeup call, because the Red Sox sure could use the 2016 version of his bat in the middle of their order.

Final score: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5