When the Red Sox take the field at Fenway Park for Tuesday night’s Wild Card Game against the Yankees, it will most likely be Kevin Plawecki — not Christian Vazquez — catching starter Nathan Eovaldi.
While Vazquez clearly established himself as the Sox’ top catcher this season by leading all major-league backstops in innings caught (1,051 1/3), Plawecki forged a better repertoire with Eovaldi over the course of the 2021 campaign.
Of the team-leading 32 starts Eovaldi made for Boston this year, 17 came with Plawecki behind the plate and 13 came with Vazquez catching him. With Plawecki, the right-hander posted a 3.28 ERA and .644 OPS against over 96 innings of work. With Vazquez, on the other hand, he put up a significantly higher 4.77 ERA and .766 OPS against in 66 innings.
“Those two have done an amazing job together,” Red Sox manager Cora said Monday in regards to the Eovaldi-Plawecki battery. “Nothing against Christian, but they have been good. I think that’s just the answer. You know, offensively, I think both have done a good job lately. You know, Kevin can catch up with the fastball, too. We know that.”
Though Cora did mention that Vazquez will be ready in the event that he is needed Tuesday, the decision to start Plawecki speaks to the level of confidence the Sox have in their backup.
Despite some defensive concerns, the 30-year-old veteran enjoyed another productive season at the plate in which he slashed .287/.349/.389 (102 wRC+) with seven doubles, three home runs, 15 RBI, 15 runs scored, 12 walks, and 26 strikeouts over 64 games (173 plate appearances) in limited playing time.
As Cora alluded to, Plawecki did have success against the fastball this season, as he hit .280 and slugged .410 while clubbing all three of his homers off that particular pitch.
Plawecki’s ability to handle the fastball should come in handy on Tuesday with ace right-hander Gerrit Cole on the mound for New York to start things off. Per Baseball Savant, Cole relied on his four-seam fastball more than any other pitch this season by turning to it more than 47% of the time.
In seven games — four of which were starts — against the Yankees this year, the right-handed hitting Plawecki slashed an impressive .313/.389/.563 across 18 trips to the plate.
Against Cole specifically, Plawecki is 1-for-3 with a single and strikeout, though all three of those plate appearances came back in 2015 — when Plawecki was a rookie with the Mets and Cole was still with the Pirates.
(Picture of Kevin Plawecki and Nathan Eovaldi: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)