Chris Sale didn’t have a bad night by any means in Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. But the Boston Red Sox ace — making his fourth appearance since his return from Tommy John surgery — did have his quietest outing of the year in a critical division matchup.
He allowed two runs on six hits with two walks — all tying season highs — while striking out just three, a season low. With a little help from a bullpen of Garrett Whitlock, who got his seventh win of the year, and Adam Ottavino, who earned his 11th save of the season, the Red Sox fared decently on the hill.
And a big part of their success came from the guy behind the plate — both offensively and defensively.
Christian Vázquez finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, striking out once. He did have a questionable moment on the base path as he couldn’t avoid a tag at home, but he redeemed himself elsewhere.
After an RBI single opened the scoring in the second inning, he launched a solo home run in the top of the seventh to breathe new life into the game and tie things at two. In the seventh and eighth innings, with the Rays working from behind, Vázquez had a pair of big plays at the dish to keep runs off the board.
“He’s a proud individual,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the 3-2 win. “He’s been with this team for a while and he understands that he needs to step up his game. He put a good swing against McHugh on the breaking ball and his bats were solid the whole night … Did a great job behind the plate. He was right there locked in with (Whitlock, Sale and Ottavino). The plays at the plate, he was more aggressive. It was a great all-around game for Christian.”
As for Vázquez, he viewed it all as a step in the right direction for the Red Sox.
“We need it now,” he said. “(Going) forward we need every win we can get to stay in the playoffs and get a spot, no matter what it is, stay there and compete.”
Here are other notes from Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays game:
— The Rays had won nine consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. The win snaps a three-game skid for the Red Sox.
— Rays reliever David Robertson struck out two in the eighth inning — his first MLB appearance since April 14, 2019.
— Ryan Brasier and Danny Santana both were reinstated from the injured list before Wednesday’s game to help fill some roster spots amid Boston’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
— Yairo Muñoz became the 11th person affected by the outbreak when he tested positive earlier Wednesday.
— Speaking of the virus trouble, both Cora and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom spoke at length to the media about a number of COVID-related topics before the game…
First up, the manager doesn’t believe the team’s recent rough stretch should be connected to the virus — and in a radio appearance earlier in the day, he didn’t think the team’s low vaccination rates contributed to the outbreak.
While Bloom backed him up, he also expressed his frustration with members of the organization who aren’t vaccinated.
On a positive note, Kiké Hernández — who tested positive first — could return this weekend. He’s still in Cleveland, where the team was when things started to escalate.
— Provided the health situation doesn’t worsen, the Red Sox are on track to wrap up the series against the Rays on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET on NESN.