Christian Vazquez continues to be the hottest hitter in the Boston Red Sox lineup at Fenway Park. Can that momentum carry over to the upcoming road trip?
Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez doesn’t hit many home runs but he sure knows know to make the ones he does hit count.
The final score of 6-2 may give the impression that Boston coasted to a victory over the Oakland A’s Thursday afternoon. It certainly didn’t seem that way while the lineup was being shut down through the first four innings by Daniel Gossett. It was the solo shot by Vazquez to lead off the fifth inning that opened the floodgates.
Boston would chase Gossett from the game with a parade of doubles in the sixth inning but it was Vazquez that gave the lineup a spark with a towering shot that cleared the Green Monster.
It was only the fifth home run of the season for Vazquez, who had never hit more than one in a season prior to this year. They may not be plentiful but they are well timed. All seven of his career home runs have come when the Red Sox were within two runs over their opponent. Four of the five homers that Vazquez has hit this year gave the Red Sox the lead, including the unforgettable walk-off against the Cleveland Indians on August 1.
Four of his home runs this year have come at Fenway, where Vazquez has been red hot. The 27-year old is hitting a blistering .372 with a .974 OPS at home this season. No other Red Sox hitter has a higher batting average at Fenway this season. Rafael Devers is the only one with a higher OPS, a 1.028 mark that he’s produced in fewer than 100 home at-bats.
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The Red Sox embark on a nine-game road trip that kicks off Friday night in Tampa Bay, which will provide an opportunity for the scorching bat of Vazquez to be tested. He’s hitting a meager .222/.257/.292 on the road this season, which suggests one of Boston’s hottest hitters is about to cool off.
Sandy Leon will get the call behind the plate Friday night with Chris Sale on the mound, which is about the only time we should ever see Leon down the stretch. His rapport with the ace is too vital to abandon now, despite that his bat pales in comparison to Vazquez’ regardless of venue.
For the other seven games on this trip, we should hope to see Vazquez in the starting lineup. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be getting the same Vazquez that has been lighting up Fenway.
Vazquez has been on fire for the last six weeks, hitting .359 with four home runs since the beginning of August. That’s an impressive stretch, although most of the damage was done at home. Vazquez did have one 4-for-4 performance in Toronto on August 28, boosting his road numbers over this sample significantly. Take that away and he’s hitting .230 over his last seven road games.
This upcoming stretch will be an important indicator of how much we can trust the bat of Vazquez when the postseason arrives. The Red Sox are likely to start the playoffs on the road. Leon should be paired with Sale for his start but that still leaves at least one road start for Vazquez, with more to follow depending on how long the series is extended and if the Red Sox advance.
If Vazquez is able to keep stringing hits together on this road trip it will leave the Red Sox feeling much more comfortable when the postseason rolls around. When he gets hot he lengthens the lineup by providing a threat near the bottom of the order. That uptick in offensive production would go a long way toward helping the Red Sox make a deep playoff run.