USA Today Sports

A's 4, Red Sox 1: Alex Cora magic put on pause

Rob Bradford
April 22, 2018 - 10:07 pm

It had been exactly 25 days since we could legitimately question an Alex Cora decision leading to a Red Sox loss. It was an impressive run. But Sunday afternoon in Oakland, the streak came to an end.

Coming into the series finale with the A's, the Red Sox had lost just three times. The first was the Opening Day, eighth-inning collapse. The second came in among the flying fists with the Yankees. And No. 3 occurred Saturday night when Chris Bosio's 1993 no-hitter got pushed back in the record books thanks to an out-of-nowhere no-no from Sean Manaea.

After some debatable bullpen decisions on March 29, it would have been tough to pinpoint really much of anything Cora decided upon that led to those last two losses.

And while the moves made by the Red Sox manager Sunday afternoon weren't definitively the reason his team suffered a 4-1 loss to the A's, there were a couple that opened the door for the kind of spirited conversation that makes our Boston baseball-following community's world go around. (For a complete recap, click here.)

The headliner was the decision to leave David Price in to face Oakland's Khris Davis with two outs in the eighth inning.

The situation was this: The game tied at 1-1, two runners on, Price -- sitting at 95 pitches -- facing off with the Oakland slugger, and Carson Smith having already warmed up in the bullpen. Also of note - the Red Sox starter had just fanned the A's hottest hitter, Jed Lowrie in the previous at-bat.

Coming into the at-bat, Price had thrown Davis exclusively fastballs and cutters, with one fourth-inning cutter catching a good chunk of the plate but only resulting in a pop-up to first baseman Mitch Moreland. Four innings later, the lefty offered the right-handed hitter the same pitch in almost the exact same location. The result wasn't the same.

 

BaseballSavant.com

 

 

 

After the game Cora explained to reporters why he chose to leave Price in and not go to Smith (per MassLive.com):

"I felt with the conviction he (Price) pitched and the way he dominated Jed -- right now Jed is probably the best hitter in the league -- so I decided to leave him there," Red Sox manager Alex Cora explained. "He left a cutter over the plate and Davis put a good swing on it. ... We've got Smith but the way he got (Lowrie) out, you could see his fastball was good enough. The pitch to Jed, that was probably the one that made me make the decision."

Cora also went on to say that Craig Kimbrel wasn't perceived as an option, with the manager only considering using the closer outside the ninth inning on the road righ now if the Red Sox were leading.

The other moment that could be scrutinized came in the seventh inning, with the Red Sox having just tied the game while putting runners on second and third with one out. Up to the plate came Christian Vazquez, who had doubled, but came into the game hitting .208 with a .508 OPS. While the Sox didn't have their normal catching depth handy due to Blake Swihart's presence at designated hitter, they still had Sandy Leon on the bench, and -- more importantly -- Mookie Betts, Eduardo Nunez and Hanley Ramirez ready to pinch-hit.

But with Oakland righty reliever Yusmeiro Petit in the mound Cora rode with Vazquez, who popped up to first. The following batter, Tzu-Wei Lin, also hit for himself, going down swinging to end the threat. Ramirez had been 3-for-9 with a homer against Petit, with Nunez having gone 2-for-6 and Betts just 0-for-1. (Vazquez and Lin had no history against the reliever.)

The closest there came to a pinch-hitting opportunity was with Betts in the on-deck circle when Vazquez flew out to end the game in the ninth inning.

None of these would seem to be egregious transgressions on the part of Cora, but they were the type of incidents that sparked the kind of debate we really haven't had since that March 29 day in St. Petersburg, Fla. And that's going to happen, especially when the best April team of all-time loses two in a row.

Up until the Davis home run, Price was having a stellar outing, allowing just one run through the first seven innings, striking out six and walking just one. Offensively, Mitch Moreland served as the onoy Red Sox hitter to claim multiple hits.

Comments ()