By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The legend of Sandy Leon keeps growing.
The Red Sox catcher added another chapter to his lore late Wednesday evening. In a game where it didn’t seem like anyone would cross home plate, and even the hardest hit balls were being lost in the cold air, Leon bashed a 12th inning three-run homer into the night’s sky to lift Boston to a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It was Leon’s first walk-off hit of any kind throughout his career. He said he didn’t know the ball was going to leave the park when it left his bat, so he just started running. Once the faithful fans who had stuck around for the extra baseball started going wild, Leon knew he and his teammates were walking off with a victory.
“Awesome,” he said after the win. “A long game like that, you’re just trying to get a win for the team. I’m not a home run hitter, so I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit. I was just trying to keep it simple and get a base hit so [Jackie Bradley Jr.] could score. The pitch was right in the middle, so I put a good swing on it and it was a homer.”
Leon is now 5-for-8 to start the season, touting a ridiculous 1.750 OPS. It’s only two games, but it brings back memories of the catcher’s torrid stretch last summer, when he posted a .350/.405/.976 split while clubbing seven homers and driving in 28 runs from June to August.
[graphiq id=”2JNxpZgvr2l” title=”Sandy León 2016 Batting Splits by Month” width=”600″ height=”495″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/2JNxpZgvr2l” ]
Every time it seems like the Red Sox are ready to turn catching duties over to Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, Leon hits like Ted Williams. It also helps that he did a stellar job behind the plate for 12 innings on a raw April evening. That’s no easy task for a 5-foot-10, 225-pound human being, but Leon got it done. His work behind the dish earned the praise of new Boston lefty Chris Sale, who was magnificent for seven innings on Wednesday night.
While Sale’s unbelievable slider made Pittsburgh hitters look silly, he was quick to give Leon loads of credit.
“Sandy was the one calling them. I was just the one throwing them. When you can have confidence in your guys behind the plate like that, it’s huge,” Sale said. “Watching him hit that home run, that was fun.”
While his night was over long before Leon sent Antonio Bastardo’s 0-1 offering into the stands, Sale was pumped to see his catcher become the hero of the night.
“All the better having your catcher go out there and walk it off. That’s special,” he said.
We’ll see how long Leon can keep it up at the plate, as he hit just .213 in the final month of last season after that hot stretch during the summer months. But it seems like any time he’s counted out, the backstop rises to the occasion.