Vazquez starts at 1B with Leon catching Sale

July 14th, 2019

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Alex Cora isn’t a big believer in personal catchers, but the comfort lefty has with is hard to ignore, and there is data to back it up.

And for Saturday’s game at Fenway Park, Cora chose not to ignore it while also finding a creative way to keep ’s hot bat in the lineup.

While Leon got the nod behind the plate, Vazquez made his first career start at first base. And it was an adventurous one in Boston's 11-2 loss to the Dodgers.

In the fourth inning, Vazquez handled a bouncer off the bat of Corey Seager to start a 3-6-3 double play, but he almost forgot to finish the play after receiving the return throw at first base.

In the seventh, Vazquez committed a throwing error that led to a run. After forcing out Seager again on a grounder to first, Vazquez misfired to third as he tried to catch Max Muncy advancing with two outs. Muncy then ran home as the Dodgers piled on four runs in the inning.

Vazquez did play six innings of first base in the epic Game 3 of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium and handled both of the chances he had cleanly while also registering a putout and an assist. He played one inning at first on April 24 this season against the Tigers but didn’t get any chances.

“Christian will be fine,” Cora said before the game. “He’s a good defender, he has good footwork, he’s played first in winter ball before, he played in the World Series, and it’s one of those, we have to keep that bat there.”

Yes, the bat. Vazquez is having a breakout season and entered Saturday batting .339 in his previous 50 games.

Though Vazquez will never be , Cora appreciates his willingness to be versatile. On April 15, Vazquez started at second base for the first time in his career and went all nine innings. He even started a double play.

“Christian is one of the smartest players we have,” Cora said. “He’s in tune with the game. Actually for him, it’s fun to play another position. He played second base earlier in the season, and he did everything right. I expect him to go out there and make all the plays and put good at-bats.”

While it is worth mentioning that Sale never looked more unhittable than in the final inning of last year’s World Series -- with Vazquez catching -- he has typically been his most dominant with Leon as his batterymate.

In 76 innings with Leon at catcher this season, Sale has a 2.96 ERA. He has worked 31 innings with Vazquez, notching a 6.68 ERA. Over the past three seasons, Sale has a 2.53 ERA in 395 1/3 innings with Leon and a 4.61 mark in 84 innings with Vazquez.

“I hate the whole personal catcher thing, but I felt like today, we’re going with Sandy and Chris, see where it takes us,” Cora said. “I hate to say it because I think he’s pitched well with Christian at times, but last night, I was thinking about it, and I was like, ‘You know what, let’s do this.’ Let’s hope it works.”

Cora didn’t want to get into specifics about why Sale’s level of success is different with Leon than Vazquez.

“I don’t know. You have to ask Chris that one,” Cora said. “I feel he’s OK with both. I just made the decision that it’s Sandy. I think they actually call the game differently, which is good for us. It’s not kind of like a script, like other teams. We give them the tools and suggestions, and they go from there. I do feel they call the game differently.”

Moreland has setback
First baseman recently felt tightness in his right quad, which forced the Red Sox to alter their plan of having him play three straight days this weekend for Triple-A Pawtucket. Moreland was scratched from the lineup on Friday and spent Saturday under the watch of Boston’s training staff at Fenway Park.

The hope is that Moreland can go back to Pawtucket and start on Sunday.

Originally, the Sox thought they might get Moreland back by Monday, but it will likely be a few more days now.