Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez evokes memories of Carlton Fisk with walk-off
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez hit a walk-off home run
Christian Vazquez was sitting on the fastball. When the Boston Red Sox catcher stepped to the plate with one on and one out in the bottom of the 13th inning against Tampa Bay Rays rookie Luis Patiño, he knew exactly what was coming.
Vazquez had watched Patiño fire a pair of fastballs to J.D. Martinez, retiring the Red Sox designated hitter on a fly out to begin the inning. The Rays reliever attacked Hunter Renfroe with three fastballs before missing with three consecutive sliders to issue a one-out walk. That told Vazquez everything he needed to know about how this pitcher would approach him early in the at-bat.
"“He was starting with fastball. It was 97, 98,” Vázquez said after the game, according to MassLive’s Christopher Smith. “I was looking to hit that velo in front and get a good swing.”"
Vazquez jumped on the first pitch he saw, a 96 mph fastball that he crushed 394 feet into the front row of the Monster Seats for a two-run walk-off home run.
This marks only the eighth time in major league history that a catcher has hit a walk-off home run in a playoff game. The Red Sox are the only team with two catchers who have done it.
You might have heard of the previous Red Sox catcher to join that list. Carlton Fisk’s walk-off homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.
The Fisk home run came in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Red Sox a 7-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Vazquez’s two-run blast in the 13th inning was the latest point in a postseason game in which the Red Sox have ever hit a walk-off home run.
Both walk-off home runs by Red Sox catchers cleared the towering green wall at Fenway Park. Fisk waving his arms trying to direct the ball to stay fair as it sailed toward the left field foul pole will forever remain one of the most iconic images in Red Sox history. The home run by Vazquez was never in danger of drifting foul. The only question was if he got enough of it to clear the wall. Vazquez never seemed to have any doubt about it, raising his arms triumphantly as he trotted toward first base.
Vazquez isn’t typically known for the long ball, with only six home runs this season, but he has a habit of making them count when he does break out his power stroke. The Rays have learned that as well as any team this year.
On April 6 against the Rays, Vazquez tied the game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Boston would go on to win with a walk-off in the 12th. On September 1, a seventh inning solo shot by Vazquez tied the game in an eventual 3-2 Red Sox victory over Tampa Bay.
This was only the second postseason home run for Vazquez in his career. The first came in Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS against the New York Yankees. His home run against Zack Britton to lead off the fourth inning gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead, which later proved pivotal when the Yankees made a late rally that came up just short as Boston hung on to win 4-3.
The Red Sox don’t rely on Vazquez to hit many home runs but they can count on him to come through in the clutch. His latest heroics gave the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead over the Rays, putting them on the verge of advancing to the next round. The winner of Game 3 in a best-of-5 series in baseball has won that series 72% of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
"“Yeah, it’s a big moment for us,” Vázquez said. “It’s a big win. I think no matter what inning, we need to do the job, and somebody needs to do it and take charge there. And I did it. We played good and we’re ready for tomorrow.”"
Boston will attempt to wrap up the series in Game 4 at Fenway Park tonight. With momentum on their side and an electric home crowd behind them, the Red Sox have a prime opportunity to deliver an upset over the top-seeded Rays.