USA Today Sports

Red Sox 7, A's 3: Alex Cora's lineup magic continues

Rob Bradford
April 21, 2018 - 1:45 am

Alex Cora can officially do whatever he wants. In 19 games, he has (almost) earned a Belichickian-level of benefit of the doubt.

Sure, starting your managerial career at 17-2 has something to do with the newfound cache. But it's how Cora has gotten to this point that has truly allowed for a desk drawer full of free passes, with the latest example coming in the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the A's Friday night. (For a complete recap, click here.)

This time Cora put the patience of another one of his perceived everyday players to the test, sitting J.D. Martinez down after the slugger had finished the three-game series in Anaheim going 8-for-12, including a 3-for-4 showing in the series finale. He sat, while Mitch Moreland remained at first base, with Hanley Ramirez sliding to designated hitter.

It wasn't the first time the manager has taken this path, sitting players like Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and Ramirez good, if not great, performances. But as Cora explained to reporters prior to the game, he had his reasons.

So, what happens? Martinez's replacement in the cleanup spot, Moreland, hits a grand slam, of course.

Coming into the game, it was clear Cora was onto something in regards to his lineup construction, no matter who was hitting where. This is where each spot ranked in OPS among American League teams:

1. 1st; 2. 8th; 3. 3rd; 4. 4th; 5. 1st; 6. 1st; 7. 5th; 8. 9th; 9. 6th.

It's not perfect up and down, but when you are the best in three spots, and in the top five in six of the nine then something is going right.

And how about what was supposed to the convuluted rotation between first base, DH and potentially in the outfield? Ramirez's two hits and Moreland's grand slam, the production at the positions are off the charts.

Moreland has the second-best numbers of any first baseman with at least 40 plate appearances, now totaling a 1.015 OPS, while Ramirez's OPS is .922.

The Red Sox' first basemen have combined to manage the best OPS of any group in the American League, with the designated hitters carrying the third-best OPS. And in left field, where Martinez has also seen action in eight of his 17 games, the Red Sox have the third-best OPS. It is all working out.

The maneuvering was made even more important against the A's after the Red Sox fell into a 3-0 hole after the first inning. But the combination of Jackie Bradley Jr.'s three-run homer, Moreland's grand slam and Drew Pomeranz managing to weather the early storm for a palatable 3 2/3-inning outing (assuming the early-inning struggles were a product of rust), the visitors were able to increase their spread over the last four games to 34-6.

And now what you have is just the seventh team since 1908 to start a season having won 17 of their first 19 games.

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USA Today Sports

The Red Sox became the second team to hit five grand slams before the end of April, with the 1996 Expos having hit six.

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