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Vazquez on walk-off: 'I knew it. I hit it good.'

@IanMBrowne
June 22, 2019

BOSTON -- The Red Sox were down early, but manager Alex Cora had a feeling that he shared with ace Chris Sale. “I put us in a pretty bad hole early on and AC tapped me I think after the third or fourth inning and was like, ‘We’re going to

BOSTON -- The Red Sox were down early, but manager Alex Cora had a feeling that he shared with ace Chris Sale.

“I put us in a pretty bad hole early on and AC tapped me I think after the third or fourth inning and was like, ‘We’re going to win this game.' We just kind of feel it,” said Sale.

It took a while, but the Red Sox are back to that place where they are feeling it again.

Box score

And the emotion of a thrilling 7-5, 10-inning victory could be felt as soon as Christian Vázquez's two-run, walk-off homer caromed from the roof of the home bullpen into the bleachers.

Vazquez didn’t even start the game (Sandy Leon usually catches Sale and was behind the plate for the first eight innings), but he sure did finish it by belting the second walk-off homer of his career.

“Good feeling,” said Vazquez. “Get the W there and help the team win was the best feeling ever.”

After Michael Chavis and Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out to open the 10th, and Marco Hernandez fell behind 0-2, it looked like the game was going to the 11th. But Hernandez was hit on the elbow on the 1-2 pitch from Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano, giving Vazquez an opportunity to close it out.

The catcher -- who is having a highly-underrated season at the plate -- smashed a 3-2 fastball from Romano for the third opposite-field homer of his career. It was by far the longest one at a projected distance of 403 feet, according to Statcast.

Vazquez wasn’t trying to go deep. But he knew he had as soon as he felt the ball leave his bat.

“I knew it. I hit it good. The wind was that way and I was trying to hit the ball to the gap and Marco was running with two outs and I just wanted to get the run in,” Vazquez said.

The surging Sox have won eight of their last nine, with the only loss in that span taking 17 innings. At 42-35, Boston trails the Yankees by seven games in the American League East.

“It’s fun,” Vazquez said of playing the role of hero. “Every win is fun and if we continue to play like this, we’re going to be fine and in first place.”

It was a game Boston trailed by four runs in the third and again in the top of the seventh.

They came storming back with three in three in the seventh, one in the eighth and then the rocket by Vazquez in the 10th to finish it.

Mookie Betts sparked the surge in the seventh with a one-out triple to right-center. Andrew Benintendi (RBI single), Xander Bogaerts (RBI double) and J.D. Martinez (RBI single) followed with three straight hits, and suddenly it was a one-run game.

In the eighth, it was Bradley who smashed a one-out triple -- this one into the corner in right. Rafael Devers, who was not in the lineup due to a sore right hamstring, pinch-hit for Eduardo Núñez and ripped a game-tying RBI single to right.

“We’re playing better now. This road trip and this game, we’re playing like a team, together,” said Vazquez. “Like last year, we’re playing like a family here.”

Sale labored through his start, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned) while throwing 101 pitches in five innings. The lanky lefty walked two and struck out eight, needing 36 pitches to get through the first inning.

But by the end of what proved to be a joyous night, Sale’s early struggles were a footnote instead of a story.

“That’s why you never hang your head,” said Sale. “You just keep fighting and do what you need to do and you know, hey, end up on top.”

That feeling -- that vibe -- has once again permeated the dugout and the clubhouse. As for why it took so long, that no longer matters.

“We’re finally getting back to things that make us successful and the confidence has always been there,” said Sale. “You feel a little bit more now. Like I said, coming off a good road trip, you can kind of just feel things around here just starting to change a little bit. To cap it off with a walk-off homer, Vazqy crushed that ball. That’s always fun. Give us a little momentum to start the homestand and get off on the right foot. Now we go.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.