Just last week, I wrote about Christian Vazquez’ season and how strange it is. Things have continued to be weird since then, in a good way for what it’s worth, and I’m still having some extreme trouble in trying to figure it out. After his four-hit game on Tuesday, the Red Sox catcher is now up to a .294/.336/.415 line on the season and has a 97 wRC+. That puts him in the top-half of the catching crop in baseball, and that’s strictly talking about offense. It’s becoming more and more feasible that he is really a future full-time catcher, which is a thing I never believed would be true.
I’m not here to talk about his season again today, though. Instead, I want to focus on one small part of his offensive game: The long ball. Power has never been a big part of Vazquez’ game, and it never will be. That being said, you probably remember most of the catcher’s career home runs, or at least a larger percentage than you do for most players. That’s because he only hits them in important spots. Let’s take a look back at all six of his career dingers.
1. September 25, 2014
In a way, Vazquez’ first career home run might be stretching this concept, as it came early in a game rather than being a big, late-game homer. However, it was a close game at the time and broke it open early. This one came in the second inning with the game tied at one with a runner on second and two outs. Facing Jeremy Hellickson, Vazquez got a fastball right down the heart of the plate and destroyed off the AAA sign in left field. The final score of this game would end up being 11-1 — and also, interestingly enough, featured Rusney Castillo’s first home run — but Vazquez’ home run gave Boston their last lead. According to Baseball-Reference, it was the most important play of the game.
2. May 1, 2016
When I think of clutch Vazquez home runs, this is the one I think of, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Coming off a lost season to Tommy John Surgery, Vazquez was still proving himself at this point and did so on the biggest stage in primetime against the Yankees. With the game tied at six and Dellin Betances on the mound, the Red Sox catcher stepped to the plate with one on and two outs. Now, as I’m sure most understand, this wasn’t just any late-game matchup. Betances was and still is one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. You just don’t homer off him, particularly if you’re a no-power catcher. Well, unless you’re Vazquez. He hit a fastball over everything in left-center field and gave the Red Sox a 2-run lead in the bottom of the seventh. Once again, and unsurprisingly, it was the most important play of the game.
3. June 27, 2017
Like his first career home run, Vazquez’ third — and first of this 2017 season — was not a late-game home run. That being said, once again, it was a key early-game swing that put the Red Sox on track for a fairly easy win. This time around, the Red Sox were facing Hector Santiago and were still stuck in a scoreless game in the bottom of the second. They had gotten three baserunners in the game, but none came on hits. That is, until Vazquez’ swing. The catcher sent it to the back row of the Monster Seats in left-center field and gave the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead. They’d go on to win 9-2, but that homer got things started. Yet again, it was the most important play of the game.
4. August 1, 2017
We all remember this game. This was the day in which Chris Sale was lit up by the Indians for the first time this season, but also the day the Red Sox were able to get to Carlos Carrasco. Later in the game, the elite relievers on both sides would get hit hard as well, making this a close game that was surprisingly dominated by bats. After a whole lot of craziness, the Red Sox ended up with two on and two outs in the ninth trailing by two runs and Vazquez coming up to the plate. He got a fastball down in the zone from Cody Allen — one of the game’s better relievers — and sent it over the wall in center field to the very edge of the Monster seats. It was his first career walkoff homer and sparked what would end up being a huge month of August for the Red Sox. It was also, of course, the most important play of the game.
5. August 18, 2017
This is probably the least clutch home run in Vazquez’ career, though it did come in a relatively close game. In a big series against the Yankees, the Red Sox catcher came up to lead off the fifth with his team leading by two runs. He’d hit a solo home run to put them up three, and while it didn’t feel quite as big at the time the Yankees did end up taking a lead later in the game. The Red Sox completed a comeback to get the win, and Vazquez’ insurance run played a role in that. For the first time in his career, his home run was not the most important play of the game. In fact, it wasn’t one of the top five.
6. August 28, 2017
Finally, we reach Monday night’s blast in Toronto. One interesting note about this dinger: It was his first ever away from Fenway. That was the only difference here, though. Vazquez came up in the seventh inning with his team trailing by one and the offense just slumping in general. He was able to end that trend by blasting a two-run homer out to left field, giving the Red Sox a one-run lead. They’d, of course, go on to add a few more insurance runs, but that dinger sparked the rally. It was the most important play of the game, obviously.
So, Vazquez has six career home runs and they’ve all come in close games that the Red Sox end up winning. If I’m being completely honest with you, I really have no idea what to do with that information. All I know is that it is true, and it’s amazing. Vazquez rarely hits home runs, but when he does, they are clutch. He is a strange hitter in the most wonderful way.