Sandy Leon

Red Sox lineup: Christian Vazquez moves to first as Sandy Leon catches Chris Sale

Red Sox lineup: Christian Vazquez moves to first as Sandy Leon catches Chris Sale

Alex Cora has found a creative way to keep Christian Vazquez' hot bat in the lineup while still having Chris Sale pitch to Sandy Leon behind the plate.

Vazquez will make his first career start at first base tonight in the second game of the Red Sox' interleague series against the Dodgers at Fenway Park.

Vazquez has played one major league inning at first base, the ninth inning of an 11-4 blowout of the Detroit Tigers on April 24.

Vazquez is hitting .302 with a career-high 15 homers (he's never had more than five in a full season) and in July, he's hitting .400 with four homers and eight RBI, including a home run in an 8-1 victory on Friday night. Sale's ERA is more than three runs higher with Vazquez behind the plate this season than with Leon (6.68 to 2.96). 

And with Sale (3-8, 4.04 ERA overall) struggling in his last start (five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings) with Vazquez catching, this lineup against Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling (3-3, 3.79) appears to be Cora's answer to that conundrum:

Mookie Betts, RF
Rafael Devers, 3B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
J.D. Martinez, DH
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Christian Vázquez, 1B
Brock Holt, 2B
Sandy Leon, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
--
Chris Sale, RHP

Vazquez started at second base earlier this season and has played some third as his career year at the plate has kept him in the lineup.

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Why did the Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts kiss his helmet after his home run?

Why did the Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts kiss his helmet after his home run?

We've seen Yasiel Puig lick his bat from time to time, but kissing the helmet?

The question: Why did Xander Bogaerts give his batting helmet a smooch before he put it away after his three-run homer in the seventh inning that broke open the Red Sox' 8-1 victory over the Dodgers on Friday night at Fenway Park?

The answer: Because it wasn't really his helmet.

On Twitter, @RedSoxStats was quick to notice Bogaerts give the lid a peck before he shelved it in the dugout. WEEI.com's Rob Bradford was quick with the answer.

With Leon likely in the lineup tonight to catch Chris Sale, perhaps they'll share the helmet to keep the good luck going. Bogaerts thought he had hit a double and slid into second before second base umpire Pat Hoberg emphatically left him know he could continue around the bases.

And take good care of that helmet.

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These stats showcase Chris Sale's issues pitching to Christian Vazquez

These stats showcase Chris Sale's issues pitching to Christian Vazquez

The Boston Red Sox once again were unable to win a Chris Sale start as they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays by a final score of 6-3 on Wednesday night. With the loss, Sale dropped to 3-8 on the year and continued to be "as frustrated as he's ever been" playing baseball.

Last night, Sale surrendered five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched to bump his ERA up to a 4.04 mark for the year. However, his ERA has been notably worse when Christian Vazquez has caught him, per Chris Mason of The Eagle-Tribune.

That number is alarming, and it's also markedly worse than Sale's performance throwing to backup catcher Sandy Leon, as pointed out by Bill Koch of The Providence Journal.

Suffice to say, that is a massive difference in performance. And that's probably part of the reason that Leon had caught Sale in his previous seven starts before last night's contest.

Vazquez has also overseen two starts this year in which Sale has allowed three home runs. In his previous two seasons with the Red Sox, Sale had only allowed three homers on one occasion. That came in September of 2017 against the New York Yankees. At the time, Leon was behind the plate.

Of course, it is fair to point out that Vazquez isn't responsible for all of Sale's struggles, as the lefty has had shakier-than-usual command over the course of his last three starts, walking five and allowing five homers. And two of those starts came with Leon behind the plate.

Additionally, Vazquez has been a key part of the offense and in last night's game, he helped give Sale some run support by blasting a homer. Leon is still batting below the Mendoza line, and he figures to continue on mostly as a strong defensive option who can occasionally crack a hit.

Still, the fact of the matter is that Sale has been better when throwing to Leon by a wide margin this year. Unless Sale and Vazquez can figure out a way to better co-exist when on the field, the Red Sox may be better off using Leon as Sale's personal catcher while trying to find Vazquez some at-bats as a designated hitter or pinch hitter during Sale's starts.

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