Christian Vazquez took one of his best swings of the season at Fenway Park last week. It was so good that he’s still smiling.
Vazquez and his wife, Gabriela, are expecting their first baby in November and decided to find out the gender at the ballpark. With Christian at the plate, Gabriela flipped him a baseball. He smashed it and the ball exploded into a cloud of blue.
“He’ll be a catcher,” Vazquez said later, some blue smudges still on his cheeks.
These are good times for Vazquez. He got married in the offseason, then started the first season of a three-year, $13.6 million contract. He also became the unquestioned primary catcher when the Sox traded Blake Swihart to Arizona last month.
Now comes a baby.
“He’s done a lot of good things the last three or four months. What’s going on off the field helps him out,” manager Alex Cora said. “It makes him more responsible. He got married; they’re going to have a kid. All those things put everything in perspective and gives you balance.
“He’s in a great place. We’re very proud of what he has accomplished so far.”
Vazquez’s comfort has shown up on the field. He was 1 for 4 with a home run in Saturday’s 7-3 loss against Houston and is hitting .309 with a .894 OPS for the season.
Vazquez is 25 of 65 (.385) with seven extra-base hits, eight RBIs, and seven walks since the Sox took Swihart off the roster. His six home runs are already a career best.
“It challenged him,” Cora said. “Hey, we believe you can hit. We believe you can be an all-around catcher . . . he took it the right way.”
Vazquez had a rocky 2018 season. He lost playing time to Sandy Leon, then spent nearly two months on the injured list with a broken finger.
The Sox intended to stick with Leon for the postseason, but Vazquez started 10 of the 14 games and has built on that.
“He made a conscious effort to keep getting better,” Cora said. “It’s been great to see him this way. He’s not the same guy two years ago, three years ago that he was — just getting lucky getting hits. Now you can see it. He’s driving the ball. He’s actually controlling the [strike] zone.”
Since the beginning of the season, Vazquez has cut down his swing and is more direct to the ball.
“More simple at the plate,” he said. “Getting my pitch.”
Vazquez can’t remember feeling this confident at the plate since 2017, when he hit .290. But he showed only occasional power that season and is now making better contact.
“I can drive the ball everywhere,” he said. “It’s been working.”
Astros make switch
Houston changed its rotation and will start lefthander Wade Miley against Chris Sale on Sunday afternoon. Brad Peacock was dropped back to Monday.
That will line Miley up to face the Red Sox again on Friday night in Houston. The Astros feel that will be to their advantage because the Sox are 4-8 against lefthanded starters this season.
Miley hasn’t faced the Sox since 2017 when he was with the Orioles. He is 2-2 with a 7.13 ERA in four career starts against the Sox.
Miley was 11-11 with a 4.46 ERA in 32 starts for the Sox in 2015.
Sale has allowed only five earned runs on 13 hits over 28 innings in his last four starts, with 49 strikeouts. He will be facing the Astros for the first time since Game 1 of the American League Championship Series when he allowed two runs over four innings.
Dustin Pedroia was 0 for 4 as the designated hitter, and Brock Holt went 1 for 3 and played seven innings at second base for Triple A Pawtucket against Gwinnett at McCoy Stadium.
The plan is for them to stay in those spots on Sunday. Holt would then play shortstop at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, with Pedroia at second base.
Holt is 3 for 12 through four games in his rehab assignment. Pedroia is 1 for 7.
Brian Johnson is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game, site as yet determined, on Monday or Tuesday. The lefthander, who is coming back from an elbow strain, is one game into his rehab assignment.
Coach on the shelf
Third base coach Carlos Febles stayed in the dugout because of bone chips in his ankle. “He’s in bad shape,” Cora said. Assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett coached third . . . Infielder Marco Hernandez was promoted to Pawtucket after hitting .295 in 21 games for Single A Salem. Hernandez has not played in the majors since 2017 and is working his way back from three surgeries on his left shoulder. “It’s a testament to him and the medical staff,” Cora said. “In spring training I used to get there at 5:30, 5:45 [a.m.] and he was there working” . . . The Cubs claimed righthanded Chandler Shepherd off waivers a day after the Red Sox designated him for assignment. Shepherd was 0-5 with a 10.01 earned run average in eight games for Pawtucket and had recently been demoted from the rotation to the bullpen. The Cubs assigned Shepherd to Double A Tennessee.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.