Red Sox 8, Astros 3: Christian Vazquez keeps the good times rolling

Jim Rogash

The Red Sox are suddenly on a three-game winning streak, and this time you can actually attribute a big part of the victory directly to A.J. Pierzynski's departure--or, rather, to his replacement.

The Red Sox are now 3-0 in the post-Pierzynski era, and this time, it's got more than a bit to do with the man who replaced him. Christian Vazquez was a driving force Friday night as the Sox downed the Astros 8-3 in Houston.

While the last two wins have been close things, with just enough offense scraped together for a pair of walkoffs, tonight the Red Sox put together three rallies to leave them well clear of the Astros. And each one featured their rookie catcher in a key role.

In the third inning, it was a first-pitch flare into left-center field that gave Christian Vazquez his first career hit and, ultimately, the Red Sox their first run of the night. Brock Holt was the one to bring him home in the very next at bat, not missing a homer by much as he launched a long fly ball to right and off the bullpen wall, heading into third with a triple as Vazquez made it 1-0 Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia ripped a double down the left field line behind him, and the Red Sox found themselves with an early 2-0 lead.

They did not wait long to go on the attack again, striking for a third run in the fourth inning. While Vazquez had scored a run in the third, this time he was the man to drive it in, once again going after the first pitch and hitting a deep line drive double past a fully extended L.J. Hoes, scoring Stephen Drew from third after the shortstop had produced a triple of his own.

The big inning, though, came in the sixth. Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the setup with back-to-back singles, and for the second straight game Stephen Drew was the beneficiary of an intentional walk, this one loading the bases with Nava and Bradley already on second and third by way of an error. That brought Vazquez to the plate which once again spelled bad news for Houston. This time he took a few pitches, falling behind 1-2 thanks to a fairly questionable strike one call. But the fourth pitch was finally one that found its way onto the edge of the zone, and Vazquez did more than simply protect the plate, turning on it for an RBI double down the right field line.

Now with five runs on the board, the Red Sox would reload the bases via a Brock Holt walk, giving David Ortiz the chance to nail the coffin shut once and for all. This he very much did with a hit not unlike Brock Holt's triple. Of course, Ortiz isn't the fastest runner, leaving him stuck at second, but the rest of the baserunners had wheels enough to find their way home, leaving the Red Sox with eight runs after six.

It was, frankly, more than a little overkill. John Lackey was a little all over the place, trying to take advantage of a wide outside edge but struggling to find the healthy middle ground between a clear strike and a clear ball. He would ultimately walk five batters on the night--far from his usual standard--but when he missed he missed down and away more often than anything else, and that largely kept the Astros from truly punishing him. When all was said and done, he was on the hook for just two runs after six innings of work. Admirable results considering he was clearly struggling to place his pitches.

All that was left was for the bullpen to wrap things up, and while Craig Breslow still could not completely avoid damage, allowing the Astros to pick up a third run on the night, they never came close to letting Houston back in the game. It was a rare, comfortable, 8-3 win for Boston.

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