Christian Vázquez has spent his entire career in the Red Sox organization. The 2008 draftee has caught 651 regular-season games for the Sox, fifth most in franchise history.
J.D. Martinez has enjoyed his highest pinnacles in Boston, a huge final piece of the 2018 World Series puzzle who has made the All-Star team four times in five seasons since signing with the Sox.
Both face the possibility their Red Sox tenure is nearing an end. On Sunday afternoon, both tried to mount an on-field fight against the notion of their inevitable departures, delivering key contributions in a 7-2 victory over the Brewers.
“I’m not blind. I know what’s going on, being out there. But just put it off to the side,” Martinez said. “As far as I know I’m here. I’m not going to think anything otherwise. I want to make it as hard on [chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to make a trade] as I can. If we keep winning I think we can do that.
”Everybody feels like you’re fighting for your life type stuff, fighting to keep the band together,” he added. “I think that’s . . . hurt us, honestly. But it is what it is.”
The combative spirit did not prove an impediment on Sunday. The Sox fell behind, 2-0, when former teammate Hunter Renfroe blasted a two-run homer in the second off rookie starter Josh Winckowski.
But Winckowski (4-5, 5.00 ERA after allowing 2 runs on 7 hits with one walk and one strikeout) worked around traffic for the rest of his five innings, and the Sox rallied behind him in the middle innings.
With two outs in the fifth, the team had four consecutive run-scoring doubles. Xander Bogaerts tied the game by lining a two-run double to left. Martinez — who’d been mired in an 0-for-25 slump dating to before the All-Star break, a struggle amplified by time missed with back discomfort — followed with an RBI double to right that put the Sox ahead, 3-2.
“Just a matter of time,” Sox manager Alex Cora said of Martinez’s swing coming around.
Vázquez likewise doubled to the opposite field to score Martinez, and then Vázquez scored on an Alex Verdugo double against reliever Hoby Milner. It marked the first time in at least the last 15 years that the Sox had as many as four two-out doubles in an inning.
The Sox added on with two runs in the sixth on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI double and Jaylin Davis’s RBI single. Sharp work by the bullpen — two scoreless innings from Garrett Whitlock, who put up zeroes despite getting smoked on the right hip by comebacker (“Of course it hit me there,” said Whitlock, referencing an injury to that region that landed him on the injured list in June), and scoreless inning from both Austin Davis and John Schreiber — gave the Sox their most comfortable win since the All-Star break.
“We’re still here. We control what we can control. We’re here fighting together. We are family and we’re going to continue until we see what happens in these couple of days,” said Vázquez. “We’re still here with this uniform and I hope we can stay here.”
Vázquez, Martinez, and other Sox players have articulated a belief the Sox can contend if the team remains intact. Vázquez was asked whether he thought Bloom believes in the team.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But I know on this club, in these walls, we believe in each other and know we can do this together.”
Multiple major league sources on Sunday suggested that nothing has changed in recent days regarding the team’s stance that it has no plans to trade Bogaerts or Rafael Devers. But sources suggest the team is very open to moving free-agent-to-be Martinez (with one team believing that the Sox will move Martinez for little prospect return to unload his salary) and potentially open to moving Vázquez and Nate Eovaldi, both of whom likely would command more talent than Martinez.
It’s unclear whether Sunday’s win will influence the team’s trade calculus. But it did help the Sox to avoid some forms of “worst ever” ignominy.
In going 8-19 rather than 7-20 in July, the Sox avoided matching their worst month of any season this century. (The Sox went 7-20 in their organization-imploding collapse in September 2011.)
Meanwhile, Winckowski claimed the Sox rotation’s first win of July — thus allowing the team to duck the distinction of joining the 2022 Pirates and 1996 Tigers as the only teams ever to have a rotation go winless for a full calendar month. Sox starters finished July with a 1-13 record and 7.09 ERA.
Still, the Sox concluded July without a single series win, the first time they’d suffered such a fate in a month with at least 10 games since September 2011. Moreover, the team was outscored by 77 runs for the month, its worst run differential since June 1932.
“Bad baseball, bottom line,” Cora said of his team’s performance.
That July performance — the product of a decimating number of injuries and sloppy play by those who were healthy — left the team with a 51-52 record, not only in last place in the AL East but trailing six teams in the race for three wild card spots. A 3½ game gap separates the Sox from Tampa Bay for the last of those playoff berths.
And so, a crossroads nears with the Aug. 2 trade deadline looming. The team is waiting to see if it will keep pushing towards contention or get stripped for parts.
“They’re aware,” said Cora. “One thing’s for sure, nothing has changed as far as preparation and going about the game the right way. Sometimes it doesn’t look great, but we’re very proud of the group and how we have stayed the course. It was a tough month, a very tough month . . . [But] we finished the month on a positive note.”
Will it be the last note for Martinez, Vázquez, and other mainstays? An answer is nearing.
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.