Christian Vazquez Has Career Day at Plate as Red Sox Finish off Sweep of Phillies

After being held to two runs in a tight one-run victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, the Red Sox were able to break out for six runs in a 6-3 win on Sunday to complete the two-game weekend sweep and improve to 79-70 on the season.

Making his 30th start of the season for Boston and second against Philadelphia was Rick Porcello, who surrendered three runs over five innings the last time he faced off against the Phils at Fenway Park back on August 21st.

Tossing five full innings once again this time around, the right-hander yielded two runs, both of which were earned, on five hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first of those two Phillies runs came in the bottom half of the second, when with no outs and the bases empty, Rhys Hoskins led things off by unloading on a 2-1, 92 MPH heater from Porcello and crushed it 421 feet to left field to get his side on the board. The 31st long ball of the season given up by Porcelo.

In the fifth, a one-out walk of Scott Kingery and back-to-back two-out singles from the pinch-hitting Phil Gosselin and Cesar Hernandez resulted in another run crossing the plate for the Phillies, but Porcello managed to escape any further damage by getting J.T. Realmuto to ground out to third to both retire the side and end his outing on a more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (49 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his two-seam fastball nearly 49% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing zero swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.8 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw eight times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately picking up his 13th winning decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 5.77, Porcello’s best performance of the month is certainly a step in the right direction. He’ll look to build on it in his next time out, which should come against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

In relief of Porcello, Marcus Walden entered the middle of the sixth with a four-run cushion to work with, and he saw that cushion shrink to three on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Jean Segura to drive in Hoskins from second after he drew a one-out walk.

From there, Andrew Cashner maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk in a scoreless seventh, and Matt Barnes faced the minimum in a clean eighth with the help of an inning-ending 3-5-3 double play to make way for Brandon Workman in the ninth for the second time in less than 24 hours.

And in that bottom of the ninth, Workman retired three of the four hitters he faced to lock down the 6-3 win and pick up his 14th save of the season.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran left-hander Jason Vargas for the Phillies, someone they had not seen since July 28th, 2017 when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Coming off a night in which they were relatively held in check by Aaron Nola, J.D. Martinez kicked off the scoring for Boston right away in the first, plating Andrew Benintendi from third on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right.

Fast forward to the third, and it was the top of the lineup setting the table once again, this time with Benintendi getting plunked, Xander Bogaerts ripping a single, and Martinez drawing a one-out walk to fill the bases for the second time in three innings.

Mitch Moreland was unable to do anything with that, as he fanned on three pitches for the second out of the frame, but Christian Vazquez did not let the opportunity go to waste.

Yup, the backstop took a 2-1, 72 MPH knuckle-curveball from Vargas and proceeded to deposit it 358 feet into the left field seats for his first career grand slam.

Not only did Vazquez’s slam untie the contest and give the Sox a 5-1 advantage, it was also his 20th homer of the season, marking the first time 29-year-old has reached that plateau in his five-year-career.

And in the sixth, Vazquez struck again by blowing right past that 20-homer plateau, as he greeted new Phillies reliever Mike Morin with his second big fly of the afternoon and 21st of the year off a one-out, 2-2, 91 MPH four-seamer on the inner half of that plate.

That solo shot put the Red Sox up 6-2, and after Philadelphia tacked on a run of their own in the sixth, 6-3 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

The Red Sox have won three straight games. They are 9 1/2 games off the pace for the second American League Wild Card spot.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another off day on Monday before welcoming the San Francisco Giants into town for a three-game interleague series beginning on Tuesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Boston in the opener, while fellow righty Logan Webb will do the same for San Francisco.

Since moving back to the starting rotation on August 18th, Eovaldi has posted a 5.89 ERA and .254 batting average against over his last five outings and 18 1/3 innings of work, which includes surrendering three runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last time out against the Toronto Blue Jays this past Tuesday.

In six career starts against the Giants, the 29-year-old owns a lifetime 10.86 ERA and .370 batting average against over 29 total innings pitched.

Webb, meanwhile, is ranked as San Francisco’s top pitching prospect and has posted a 6.75 ERA and .337 batting average against in 22 2/3 innings spanning five starts since making his big league debut on August 17th. The Giants are 2-3 in those games.

This series will also feature Giants rookie outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, the 29-year-old grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, and 25-year-old rookie outfielder Chris Shaw, who played his college ball at Boston College. Both are natives of Massachusetts.

Last time the Giants visited Fenway Park, the Sox swept a two-game series back on July 19-20 of the 2016 season.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their fourth straight win.

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Eduardo Rodriguez Punches out 12, Andrew Benintendi Drives in Game-Winning Run With Pinch-Hit Sacrifice Fly as Red Sox Take Opener From Phillies

After a rare off day on a Friday, the Red Sox kicked off the second leg of their five-game road trip by taking the first of two from the Philadelphia Phillies in a tight 2-1 win to improve to 78-70 on the season.

Making his 31st start of the season for Boston and third in a National League ballpark was Eduardo Rodriguez, who came into the weekend fresh off six one-run innings in his last time out against the New York Yankees.

Working into the seventh inning this time around, the left-hander continued to impress, holding the Phillies to just one earned run on four hits, one walk, and one HBP to go along with a season-high 12 strikeouts on the night.

That lone Philadelphia tally came in that bottom half of the seventh, when after retiring 18 of the first 20 hitters he faced, Rodriguez served up a leadoff single to Bryce Harper.

Back-to-back punchouts of Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery brought the Venezuela native to within one out of escaping the frame, but a Cesar Hernandez single, Adam Haseley HBP, and six-pitch walk of Maikel Franco prevented that from happening.

Instead, Franco drove in Harper from third on that free pass, the Phillies had their first run of the contest, and Rodriguez’s evening came to a close, as Sox manager Alex Cora turned to his bullpen.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 105 (70 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler turned to his changeup more than 37% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing 16 swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 94.7 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 28 times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately hit with the no-decision while lowering his ERA on the year down to 3.64, Rodriguez’s quest for 20 wins this season appears to be over, but he still has a realistic shot at surpassing the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career. He’ll look to continue that pursuit in his next time out, which should come against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.

In relief of Rodriguez, left-hander Josh Taylor entered in quite the jam with the bases full and one out to get in the seventh, and he got that out by fanning the pinch-hitting Phil Gosselin on six pitches.

From there, Matt Barnes worked his way around a leadoff single and stolen base from Jean Segura and one-out intentional walk of Harper in a scoreless eighth to make way for Brandon Workman in the ninth.

Workman did yield a leadoff walk to Hernandez to put the tying run on base immediately for Philadelphia, but he did not fold, striking out Hasely, getting Jay Bruce to fly out to right, and finally fanning Logan Morrison on a 2-2, 88 MPH cutter on the outer edge of the plate to lock down the 2-1 victory and earn his 13th save of the season.

On the other side of things, a Mookie Betts-less Red Sox lineup was matched up against Phillies ace right-hander Aaron Nola, someone who held them to two runs over seven strong innings the last time these two clubs met up at Fenway Park in August.

Struggling to get anything going against Nola once more on Saturday, it was not until Rafael Devers drew a nine-pitch walk to lead off the seventh when the bats finally came through.

J.D. Martinez followed with a ground ball single back up the middle to move Devers up to second, and after Mitch Moreland fanned for the first out of the inning, Christian Vazquez delivered with the biggest hit of the night, plating Devers from second on a line-drive RBI single shot through the left-center field gap. His 25th two-bagger of the year put the Sox up 1-0 late.

Fast forward to the ninth, after the Phillies responded with a run of their own in the eighth, and a Moreland leadoff single off new reliever Hector Neris brought Vazquez to the plate.

Having never faced off against Neris before Saturday, Vazquez took a 2-1, 95 MPH heater down the heart of the plate and came through yet again, this time advancing the pinch-running Chris Owings all the way up to third on a hard-hit single to center. A little hit-and-run action.

A one-out walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Brock Holt loaded the bases for another pinch-hitter in the form of Andrew Benintendi.

The slumping Benintendi came into this one just 1-for-his-last-26 at the plate, but that did not stop him from elevating a sacrifice fly to left on the first pitch he saw from Neris, one that gave Owings more than enough time to come in and score from third.

That RBI sac fly gave the Red Sox the 2-1 lead, and that would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this two-game weekend series and five-game road swing on Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Rick Porcello will get the ball for Boston, while veteran left-hander Jason Vargas will do the same for Philadelphia.

Porcello has surrendered six runs and gone four innings deep in his last two starts since the calendars flipped to September. The Red Sox have lost both of those games.

Last time he faced the Phillies back on August 21st, the 30-year-old allowed three runs to score in five innings of work before eventually taking the loss. He has made two career starts at Citizens Bank Park, posting a 2.77 ERA and .167 batting average against over 13 total innings pitched.

Vargas, meanwhile, joined the Phillies from the New York Mets in July and has pitched to the tune of a 5.01 ERA and .293 batting average against in eight starts and 41 1/3 innings of work since the move.

The 36-year-old has made eight career starts against the Red Sox and owns a lifetime 3.48 ERA and .255 batting average against over 51 2/3 innings pitched in that span.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to return the favor and complete the two-game sweep.

The Brock Holt Free Agency Conundrum

At the conclusion of the 2019 season, Red Sox utility man Brock Holt is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career.

The 31-year-old has put together a well-rounded campaign this year, slashing .316/.380/.427 with three home runs and 31 RBI over 77 games and 255 plate appearances while playing all around the field.

Given those numbers, it appears that Holt is set for quite the pay raise this winter after earning $3.575 million this season.

Per FanGraphs’ Dollars statistic, which is, “the amount of money a player’s production would be worth on the free agent market in millions of dollars,” Holt has been worth $11.9 and $11.3 million over the last two seasons respectively. Not too shabby.

Off the field, the Texas native provides even more value, both as a positive influence in the Sox clubhouse and as a Jimmy Fund Captain.

Even more so, what Holt provides off the field was on full display this past week, as he was named Boston’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award on Thursday, marking the the third time since 2016 that he was selected for, “the most prestigious individual award” in the league for “represent(ing) the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

So, not only does Holt provide the Red Sox with quality play on the field. He has also become a staple in the Boston community and a favorite among Sox fans. Both are positive factors working in his favor.

That said, it’s not out of of the realm of possibilities that Holt could have plenty of suitors come free agency in the next few months.

As already mentioned, he gets on base, he plays multiple positions, and he would be a well-respected veteran and potential mentor wherever he lands. Any club, contending or rebuilding alike, has a reason to be interested in Holt’s services.

This past February, former Houston Astros utility man Marwin Gonzalez inked a two-year, $21 million pact with the Minnesota Twins. In his time with Houston, Gonzalez played up to seven different positions and was viewed as a leader in the Astros’ clubhouse.

Granted, Gonzalez had a down year in 2018, but I don’t think it it too difficult to fathom Holt receiving offers of $10+ million per season in the coming months.

If the Red Sox were not willing to pay that much given their other well-documented salary concerns, there is a cheaper alternative in the form of Marco Hernandez, who will be entering just his first year of salary arbitration in 2020.

Since initially being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 8th, the recently-turned 27-year-old is slashing .284/.318/.402 with two homers and 10 RBI over 48 games spanning two stints with the big league club.

Like Holt, Hernandez can play all across the infield and may even be a better defender.

As MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo questions in this attached article, “Is Holt really worth something like $7-8 million more per year than Hernandez?” That will be a tough question for the Red Sox to answer in November.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks Extend Contract of General Manager and Potential Red Sox Target Mike Hazen

The Arizona Diamondbacks have reportedly reached agreement on a contract extension with general manager Mike Hazen, per the Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hazen, 43, was viewed as a viable to candidate to take over for Dave Dombrowski as the head of baseball operations for the Red Sox.

The Abington, Ma. native spent 11 years in the Sox’ organization, serving under Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, and Dombrowski in various scouting and executive roles before accepting the job of executive vice president and GM of the DBacks back in October of 2016.

In Hazen’s tenure with Arizona, the Diamondbacks secured the top National League Wild Card spot with a 93-69 record before being swept and eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS in 2017, missed the postseason altogether with an 82-80 record in 2018, and are currently four full games off the pace for the second NL Wild Card spot with a 75-72 record to this point in 2019.

When speaking with reporters on Friday, Hazen noted that extension talks between him and the DBacks began before the Red Sox and Dombrowski parted ways, so it would not appear as though the club reached out to their former executive beforehand.

With Hazen off the list of potential names to head Boston’s baseball operations department moving forward, it will be worth monitoring who else the Sox may be interested in.

For me personally, getting Theo Epstein back would be incredible, but that seems to be more of a pipe dream at this point.

Eddie Romero, one of the three assistant GMs tasked with leading the Sox’ baseball operations department in Dombrowski’s place, seems to be the leading option internally.

 

 

 

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Becomes Second Shortstop Ever to Hit 30 Home Runs and 50 Doubles in Same Season

With his two-out double in the third inning of the Red Sox’ 7-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night, Xander Bogaerts made some history,  as he became just the second shortstop ever to mash 30 home runs and collect 50 two-baggers in the same season.

He also joined Sox legend David Ortiz as the only other player in franchise history to hit 30 homers and 50 doubles in the same season, 12 years after Ortiz became the first, per Red Sox Notes.

Alex Rodriguez first accomplished the feat in his age-20 season with the Seattle Mariners way back in 1996 and went on to finish second in American League Most Valuable Player voting that year.

Following Thursday’s win, Bogaerts is now slashing .304/.380/.560 to go along with those 31 long balls, 50 doubles, and 106 RBI, all of which are career-highs for the 26-year-old, through 141 games in 2019.

Bogaerts’ teammate and partner on the left side of the infield, Rafael Devers, notched his 50th two-bagger of the campaign this past Tuesday, meaning the two are the first pair of Red Sox players to hit 50 doubles in the same season. Pretty remarkable.

As things stand at the moment, it appears as though Boston will have four players finish in the top-10 in AL MVP voting, presumably in the order of Bogaerts, Devers, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez.

Brock Holt Starting at Third Base, Juan Centeno Catching Jhoulys Chacin as Red Sox Look to Avoid Sweep Against Clay Buchholz, Blue Jays

The Red Sox have lost five straight games and are one more loss away from getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. In order to prevent that from happening, they’ll have to get the best out of old friend and former Sox right-hander Clay Buccholz on Thursday night.

Since being traded from Boston to the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 2016, Buccholz has yet to pitch against the club he began his professional career with, but has made 26 total starts across three different organizations over three seasons, including eight for Toronto in 2019.

The 35-year-old owns a 5.31 ERA and .283 batting average against in 42 1/3 innings pitched over that span, but has looked better since returning from the injured list due to shoulder inflammation on August 25th, allowing a total of eight runs (seven earned) on 13 hits and nine walks over his last three outings and 17 2/3 innings of work.

Against Buccholz, third baseman Rafael Devers will get the night off for the Red Sox, while Brock Holt slides into the two-hole to make his second start of the year at the hot corner. This will also be the first time this season that the 31-year-old will hit as high as second in Boston’s lineup.

Behind the plate, it will be Juan Centeno making his first start in a Red Sox uniform to catch Jhoulys Chacin.

Centeno entered Wednesday’s loss as a defensive replacement for Christian Vazquez in the middle of the sixth inning and popped out to third in his lone plate appearance in the eighth.

Signed as a minor league free agent by Boston last November, the Puerto Rico native was part of the first round of September call-ups at the beginning of the month. He has never caught Chacin before in his career.

Speaking of Chacin, the 31-year-old hurler will be making his second start for the Sox after impressing with two scoreless frames against the New York Yankees last Friday and tossing a scoreless frame of relief in the same series on Sunday.

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind Chacin.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:07 PM EDT on NESN.

 

Red Sox Officially Part Ways with Dave Dombrowski Less Than a Year After Winning World Series

In case you somehow missed it, the Red Sox officially parted ways with now former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Monday morning after the news was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan late Sunday night.

This comes on the same night that the Red Sox fell to the New York Yankees by a final score of 10-5 to fall back to 76-67 on the season and a full eight games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second American League Wild Card Spot, all but snuffing out any hope of making a late push for October baseball.

Dombrowski, 63, had one year remaining on his contract that ran through the end of the 2020 season, and is less than a full year removed from constructing a Red Sox team that won a franchise-record 108 games en route to a historic World Series title this past October.

The ex-Detroit Tigers general manager was hired by the Sox in August of 2015, inheriting a club from Ben Cherington that was on its way to its third last place finish in the American League East since 2012.

In the three full seasons he was at the helm in Boston, Dombrowski won three consecutive division titles, the first time that had ever been accomplished in Red Sox history, and of course capped it off with the World Series win last year.

Per the Sox’ official release that you can visit above, Dombrowski was informed of this decision by principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president & CEO Sam Kennedy.

“We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations,” said Henry. “With a World Series Championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”

While the club begins the pursuit to find its next head of baseball operations, assistant general managers Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran and Zack Scott will take over those duties for the remainder of the 2019 season.