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Vazquez leads Sox hit parade in Houston

HOUSTON -- The Red Sox discovered a quick and easy way to score runs on Friday night -- ditch the singles.

While the Red Sox have struggled with consistency at the plate in recent weeks, one thing has been constant -- their inability to get extra-base hits. Although they extended their homerless drought to 187 at-bats, dating back to a David Ross shot this past Sunday, rookie catcher Christian Vazquez showed his new teammates how to swing a big bat.

In an 8-3 thrashing of the Houston Astros in the opener of the final series before the All-Star break, Vazquez had two of the team's seven extra-base hits, both doubles. Stephen Drew and Brock Holt chipped in triples, and Holt, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz each added a double apiece.

It was their highest outpouring of extra-base hits since notching a season-high nine extra-base hits nearly two months ago on May 14 in a 9-4 win over Minnesota. On the Ortiz double, the Red Sox fell just a few feet shy of a home run, which would have completed a cycle for the team for the first time since June 13.

When asked about his team's modest three-game winning streak, Red Sox manager John Farrell praised the offensive approach.

"The thing that stood out was the number of extra-base hits that's been somewhat elusive," Farrell said. "Just a good offensive showing."

It marked just the second time in the last four weeks that the Red Sox won a game by a margin of more than one run. They entered Friday ranked 22nd in the majors with 242 extra-base hits and moved up to 19th in a matter of one game at Minute Maid Park.

But instead of utilizing the short left-field fence in the ballpark aptly nicknamed "The Juicebox," the Red Sox pounded the alleys.

After making his major league debut in a jittery 0-for-3 performance on Wednesday, Vazquez had a breakout night, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. His first hit came in the third inning as he drove a Scott Feldman breaking ball into left-center for a single.

"Once you get the first one, it's easier," Vazquez said. "Then, they come in like bananas."

Vazquez later displayed opposite-field power with his first career RBI on a double that scored Drew. Farrell said that Vazquez's ability to utilize that strength in his swing has fueled his rapid rise in 2014.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence and surprising line-drive power," Farrell said.

Vazquez became one of just three Red Sox players since 1914 to record at least three hits and three RBIs within their first two career games, joining Sam Horn in 1987 and Merl Combs in 1947.

For what it's worth, Babe Ruth went 0-for-2 in his major league debut 100 years ago Friday and followed with an 0-for-1 performance in his second game with the Red Sox.

Perhaps even more impressive than Vazquez's performance at the plate was his performance behind the plate.

Veteran pitcher John Lackey said he was very comfortable pitching to the rookie for the first time since a few scattered appearances in spring training.

"He's awesome," Lackey said. "He really catches the ball well. Really sticks the low pitch, really wants to learn, really executed the game plan we talked about beforehand. He did a great job."

Lackey recorded his 10th win of the season, hitting the double-digit plateau for the 11th time since 2003, barring the 2012 season that he missed for Tommy John surgery.

After going six innings, allowing two runs and four hits, while walking five and striking out three, Lackey had a sense of rejuvenation as he enters the All-Star break. He talked about a "new energy" around the clubhouse with the sudden youth movement in the lineup.

Wednesday's lineup, which featured five rookie starters, marked the earliest date the Red Sox have started five rookies in a game since July 6, 1952.

Farrell said that the recent spark is about more than just age.

"Talent more than youth," Farrell said. "They're young guys that are talented. That's going to be a successful combination. Sure, there's going to be some getting established here at this level, but they're talented guys and they're playing to their capabilities."

On Saturday, the Red Sox will send 33-year-old righty Jake Peavy to the mound -- with trade rumors swirling -- to try to give them their first four-game winning streak since June 1, a span of 12 series.

"We've gotten some timely hitting," Farrell said. "Our pitching has been solid in the three games, and we're playing with a lot of energy. Guys that have come up recently have injected some of that into us, but more than anything, we're getting the timely hit."

And when they do, they're more than just singles.