NEW YORK — On Thursday, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez didn’t let up. After he went deep in Wednesday night’s 6-5 win, Vazquez hit two more homers against the New York Mets, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs and a pair of runs scored in a 4-2 victory at Citi Field. With Martin Perez on the mound for Boston, Vazquez called an excellent game behind the plate as the Sox secured the two-game series sweep.
Perez (1-1) impressed with his 5⅔ innings of work, allowing two runs on two hits while recording five strikeouts and four walks.
Vazquez picked up where he left off, belting a solo shot off a hanging changeup from Mets starter Steven Matz, giving the Sox an early 1-0 lead.
Perez walked Ramos, the eighth hitter, to start the bottom of the third. Perez then plunked Brandon Nimmo, bringing up Amed Rosario with two runners on base.
Rosario grounded to third. Peraza stepped on the bag for the force out on Ramos, but airmailed the throw to first, putting runners at first and third. Perez then walked the bases loaded and the Mets scored their first runs of the game on a two-run single by Jeff McNeil.
Perez then struck out Michael Conforto limiting the damage to just two runs.
Vazquez then hit his second homer of the game (a two-run homer) to put the Sox ahead for good. Brandon Workman closed it out for the Sox in the ninth inning.
Here’s a breakdown of the turning points in the game:
Vazquez: a closer look
Vazquez said after the game that he got tired of hitting ninth. He was always known as a defense-first catcher, but the offense has taken off to where he’s considered a consistent and significant threat in this Sox lineup.
“I think my work in the offseason is paying off now,” Vazquez said. “It’s paying last year. It’s paying this year. I need to continue being consistent.”
Vazquez has been swinging the bat well since last season when he made the adjustment to go for more loft in his swing. For much of Vazquez’s career, his swing was steep, resulting in a ton of groundballs and not much power. But a change in the swing plane resulted in a career season where he hit .276 with 23 homers. He carried that offensive momentum into the spring and summer camp, and now, into the season. Vazquez accounted for six of the team’s RBIs the past two nights.
As impressive as that was Vazquez’s game-calling shepherded Perez through this start. Consider: after two solid innings, Perez lost command of his cutter, fastball and sinker in the third. He hit Nimmo with a sinker, then walked Alonso on four straight pitches (three fastballs and one cutter). He ran the count to 2-0 against Michael Conforto.
That’s when Vazquez assessed what might be best for Perez, making his changeup his outpitch. So, Vazquez got bold. He called on Perez’s changeup three times in a row, resulting in a strikeout of Conforto that minimized the damage to just two runs.
“It was a close game and I thought that was the best pitch for him, the changeup” Vazquez said. “I think he executed it good. Overall, he pitched good. He was dotting everything.”
Said manager Ron Roenicke: “When I talk about calling a good game, he and Martin really locked in today, which is important. You don’t want your pitcher out there, shaking off a lot. I thought Christian called a great game and Martin certainly followed that.”
Much like Nate Eovaldi, Perez gutted through this performance. Entering this one, Perez wanted to attack the zone more. In his previous outing against the Orioles, Perez felt like he wasn’t aggressive enough, particularly on the inner-thirds of the plate. Early on, Perez was aggressive.
“He really commanded his pitches well from the first inning,” Roenicke said. “That’s huge for us to have him do that.”
Consider Perez’s matchup against Yoenis Cespedes, for example. Possibly the most impressive out he recorded on the evening. Perez stuck to the plan on what his intent was entering this game. He started Cespedes off with a four-seamer in for a strike. Followed by a cutter for a ball in to bring the count to 1-1. That’s when Vazquez and Perez began working soft away, getting Cespedes to whiff on two straight changeups.
“As soon as [Vazquez] gave me a sign, I said ‘I’m going to go changeup right here,” Perez said. “When you trust your stuff and have good feeling, use that pitch until they make adjustments.”
Perez and Vazquez also made the adjustment once they realized his hard stuff was no longer effective. He threw just four changeups entering the third inning. He would end up tossing 31 during this outing, the most of any other pitch.
“I had good feeling for it today,” he said. “As soon as I started throwing it and I saw those guys didn’t make the adjustment. I just said this is the pitch and I have to stay on it.”