BOSTON – Enrique “Kike” Hernández and Christian Vázquez have known each other since they were children playing as little league teammates in Puerto Rico.
More than 20 years later and after being opponents in the 2018 World Series, the duo have met again in the same team, Red Sox who aspire to the top after winning the American League Division Series over the Rays.
In fact, Boston’s last two victories in that series resulted from Puerto Rican gold hits, a Vázquez home run in extra innings on Sunday and a sacrifice fly by Hernández on Monday, after the first started the rally with a single. in the ninth episode.
“I know there are a lot of happy people in Puerto Rico. Many bar owners who are filling up to watch the games and people are spending money, “said with a smile the manager of the Red Sox, also Puerto Rican Alex Cora, after the victory of the Patirrojos on Monday to eliminate the Rays. “As a joke, the two of them have been tremendous.
“What Christian did with the (pitching) staff the last three days has been tremendous. Kike, offensively speaking, excellent. Defensively, we know what kind of player he is, so extremely proud of both of them. “
If there was an MVP award from a divisional series, Hernandez would have been easily chosen for what was done in the SDLA vs. Tampa Bay. He hit .450 (20-9) with three doubles, two homers, six RBIs, 1,329 OPS and a total of 18 bases reached. For his part, Vázquez went 16-6 (.375) with the aforementioned homer, four RBIs and three runs.
“I played with Christian when I was seven years old,” Hernandez recalled. “It has always been a horse, since we were this young.”
The road to the successes of the last week was not easy for either of them. Hernandez, in his first season with the Red Sox after signing for two years and $ 14 million last winter, hit just .213 / .294 / .371 in the final month of the regular season after being one of those affected by the outbreak. of COVID-19 that hit the Red Sox in August and September. For his part, Vázquez posted an OPS of just .659 and six home runs in what has been his second full season in the majors, after hitting 23 home runs in 2019.
After going 4-0 in the Patirrojos’ loss in Game 1 of the SDLA vs. For the Rays, Hernandez reviewed videos with the hitting coaches and came into the second game determined not to expand the strike zone. In the next three games, he was 16-6 with two homers and six RBIs.
“He was putting good shift after good shift,” said Cora, who has also known Hernández since he was a child. “He did an incredible job against a very difficult pitching staff. We are very proud of him ”.
In Vázquez’s case, he didn’t even start the Wild Card Game against the Yankees, since veteran Kevin Plawecki has been hosting games from right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who started that game and also Game 3 against the Rays.
“He gets it, but at the same time, he doesn’t like it and that’s part of it all,” Cora said. “That’s how he is as a competitor, catcher, the one who has been in this organization for a long, long time.
“He’s been working hard on his swing lately,” the foreman continued. “He’s been doing a lot of the things he did in 2019. He’s been hitting the ball hard.”
As Cora pointed out, Vázquez was chosen in the Draft and developed by the Red Sox, being part of the Boston edition that defeated the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series. Hernández, on the other hand, decided to sign with the Patirrojos after six seasons with Los Angeles – getting beaten by Boston in that Fall Classic three years ago – because he wanted to be in the daily lineup, yes or yes, different from his days with the Dodgers.
“For me personally, my priority was to find a place where I could play every day,” revealed Hernández, who in addition to playing center fielder, has served as second baseman and a bit as shortstop in 2021. “It feels like I am a more important piece than just another player.
“Boston ended up being the ideal destination. I don’t regret that decision at all ”.