What a Game For Alex Cora

Alex Cora danced around Aaron Boone for the entire wild card game. This was one of his better coached games all season long. For all the hype of a Red Sox and Yankees, winner-take-all game, it turned out to hardly be a contest. And it all started with a near perfectly managed game by Alex Cora.

The Perfect Lineup

Red Sox manager

With J.D. Martinez unavailable with a sprained left ankle, Cora was able to get a better defense-oriented lineup in. It wound up paying huge dividends as Schwarber got the start at DH. He took Gerrit Cole deep in the third, which gave the Sox a three run lead, and sent Fenway into a frenzy. Martinez’s absence also allowing Kike Hernandez to start in center, collecting an assist on the play at the plate with Aaron Judge in the 6th. Both offensively and defensively, Cora’s moves paid off. However, pitching is where Cora’s moves really shined.

Nathan Eovaldi Did More Than Enough

The choice for starting pitcher was perfect. Nathan Eovaldi was nails. He struck out 8 through 5 and a third innings, allowing no walks. He threw one bad pitch to Rizzo and let up an infield hit to Judge. That was enough for Cora. A lot is made in the postseason about a manager’s decision to pull his starter. Just last year in Game 6 of the World Series, Kevin Cash was scrutinized all offseason about his decision to pull Blake Snell too soon. People said Eovaldi needed to go deep because the bullpen hasn’t played well down the stretch. However, you can leave a starter out for too long. Red Sox fans remember the 2003 ALCS Game 7 when Grady Little left Pedro Martinez on the mound against the Yankees a little too long. Cora trusted his bullpen, and it worked as Ryan Brasier got the final two outs of the inning. That wasn’t without a little excitement on the Stanton Single, but it worked out.

All The Right Moves

From then on, Cora was pushing all the right buttons with Tanner Houck in the 7th and Hansel Robles in the 8th both throwing 1-2-3 innings. Houck’s stuff was nasty, collecting 2 strikeouts. Robles came out in the 8th and retired the side quickly, including striking out Anthony Rizzo who had the big hit for the Yankees to that point. The Red Sox bullpen was putting pressure on the Yankees bullpen to remain perfect. That pressure would eventually get to them. After working 5 walks from the Yankees bullpen, the Red Sox offense grinded out 3 more runs late to distance themselves from their rivals.

Cora Sends A Message

Alex Cora called upon Garrett Whitlock to get the final three out of the night. Perhaps a little wink to the Yankees organization, as Whitlock was selected from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft this past offseason. With the lead being what it was most managers would usually call upon a lesser guy to finish it. Not usually wanting to waste an arm as valuable as Whitlock’s. However, this is the Yankees, and Cora has never shied away from sending a message. Stanton did end up hitting a solo homerun in the 9th, but Whitlock quickly locked it down for the victory. Message sent. It’s now on to Tampa Bay to meet the Rays in the Division Series. But what a game it was for the Sox Manager.

Updating and Predicting the AL Wild Card Race

After going 2-4 in their rigorous series with the Rays and White Sox, the Red Sox now hold the second Wild Card spot in the American League, with Toronto holding the first. Boston now sits just one game ahead of the Yankees for the second Wild Card spot, and three games in front of the Athletics and Mariners. The Red Sox will now travel to Seattle to face-off with the Mariners in a series that could have big playoff implications. 

What’s ahead? 

With the Wild Card narrowed down to just the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics, and Mariners, this is what the remaining schedule looks like for those squads. 

Toronto Blue Jays- vs Rays (3), vs Twins (3), @ Rays (3), @ Twins (4), vs Yankees (3), vs Orioles (3)

Boston Red Sox- @ Mariners (3), vs Orioles (3), vs Mets (2), vs Yankees (3), @ Orioles (3), @ Nationals (3)

New York Yankees- Vs Twins (1), @ Orioles (3), vs Indians (3), vs Rangers (3), @ Red Sox (3), @ Blue Jays (3), vs Rays (3)

Oakland Athletics- @ Royals (3), @ Angels (3), vs Mariners (4), vs Astros (3), @ Mariners (3), @ Houston (3)

Seattle Mariners- vs Red Sox (3), @ Royals (3), @ Athletics (4), @ Angels (3), vs Oakland (3), vs Angels (3)

AL West

The Athletics and Mariners are set to meet each other seven times before the end of the season. With the season series between the two at 7-5, these two very well could knock each other out of the Wild Card race. The two teams have been evenly matched this season, so it is unlikely one dominates the other in their remaining seven games. 

The Athletics also draw the unfortunate task of taking on the Houston Astros six times before the end of the season. Houston and Chicago and currently neck and neck to decide who will have home-field advantage for the ALDS. This means there will be no easy games for the Athletics when they see the Astros. 

The Mariners will see their division foe Los Angeles Angels six times before the season ends. In their 12 matchups this season, the Mariners lead the season series 7-5. The Angels have been tough for the Mariners this season, so their six games could be another factor that drops Seattle in the standings. 

The schedule is not in favor of the Mariners and Athletics moving forward. With both teams three games back of the second Wild Card spot, it is unlikely each team can catch up, IF the Red Sox take care of business in their series with the Mariners this week. If the Red Sox can take care of Seattle, Houston will do the rest with Oakland. 

AL East

The AL East is where things get interesting. The Blue Jays have clawed all the way back into things and now hold the number one spot in the Wild Card. Toronto is a team the Red Sox do not want to see. We have seen what the Blue Jays are capable of, beating up the Red Sox by double digit runs a few times this season.

This race will be tight all the way up until playoff time. As I stated in another recent article, the schedule is in the Red Sox favor once again, but they will need to capitalize.

The Blue Jays will play the first place Tampa Bay Rays six times before the end of the season. The Rays are 8-5 against Toronto this season. The Blue Jays will also see the Twins seven times before the end of the season, who have the ability to put up good offensive numbers.

The Yankees will see the Blue Jays and Rays, as well as come to Boston for a three game series. If the Red Sox hold up their end and capitalize on the schedule, they could be shaping up to land that number one spot. The Red Sox will need some help so they don’t have to see Toronto though.

Torey Lovullo Still Believes in the Sox

After the Red Sox roughed up potential off-season target Johnny Cueto en route to a 7-2 win on Friday, interim manager Torey Lovullo came out and said he still believes the team can make the playoffs. The 7-2 win on Friday marked the 4th straight victory, and brought them within 7 games of the 2nd Wild Card spot. It also brings them to 10 games under .500, which is the teams best mark since July 21st.

Torey Lovullo told NESN he believes in the team and also points to the fact that the Red Torey LovulloSox are not mathematically eliminated yet. He’s got a point, but the Red Sox would almost need to win out to have a chance to make the playoffs. Friday night’s win continued a trend of beating other team’s best pitchers, while Henry Owens pitched a great game in his 4th major league start.

I admire his confidence, really, but to even get that 2nd Wild Card spot they would have to leap frog 7 teams, which is hard enough. They would have to win while they hope for a collapse from the other teams to rival the Red Sox own collapse from 2011. In the division, they’re 11.5 games back and they would have to hope for a collapse that dwarfs their own from the Yankees, which won’t happen.

Yes, I really want to believe I’m wrong, but I’m also trying to keep this season in perspective. I hope they can pull it off, but it would take a miracle. Yes, I am praying for a miracle to happen, but a big part of me doesn’t really think it will happen. The best the team can do is control what they can and try to win as many games as they possibly can down the stretch. At this point, I just want the team to finish this season strong for John Farrell. That’s probably the best any of us can hope for. Anything else beyond that is gravy.

Luck is Changing for the Red Sox

It’s been a rough start to the Boston Red Sox 2015 campaign, but the good news is, it’s still early.  Up until the Sunday June 7th game against the Oakland Athletics, the Sox had a record of 26-31.  Clearly nothing to gloat about, but it was what happened during that game against the A’s that has the potential of turning their season around.

The start of the game was looking very similar to how the Sox season has started, bad. red sox Clay Buchholz had yet another weak start, and Oakland got to him for four runs.  The Red Sox bats didn’t look much better.  They couldn’t record a run against the A’s starter Kendall Graveman through seven innings.  Everything turned around though during the eighth inning, when the A’s went to their bullpen.

Rusney Castillo started the eighth inning with a solo home run over the Green Monster, and that seemed to ignite the Sox bats.  The Sox kept hitting throughout the inning with seven runs by the end.  Even the struggling Pablo Sandoval contributed a hit to the cause, and two hits overall during the game.  This led to the Sox 7-4 victory.

Now I know that this was only one game.  And what could one game really mean in a season where you play 162?  The answer; A lot.  Up until this game it seemed as though nothing was going right for the Sox.  They weren’t hitting well, and pitching wasn’t looking good either.  But let me tell you all the reasons why Red Sox fans could end up looking back to this game at the end of the season as the one game that lifted the team.

First is the confidence level of Sandoval.  Sandoval didn’t play the two games prior to Sundays game because of bad performance.  But, after contributing to a great win for his team, this could be what he needed to get his bat going.

More importantly, now the Red Sox have some confidence of their own as a team.  This win gave them their first sweep of the season.  To go along with that, the team was only 1-27 on the season when trailing after seven innings before this game.

Following this win, the Sox are now 5 1/2 games out of first place in the A.L. East, and only four games out of a Wild Card spot.  These may seem like numbers that will be hard to come back from, but as much as I hate to do it, think back to the Sox 2012 season.  Remember?  With 24 games left in the season the Sox blew a nine game lead for the Wild Card Playoff spot.  There is still 104 more games to be played this year, I’d say that’s more than enough time to make a come back. And only time will tell if this win will be a big reason why we’ll hopefully be watching the Sox in the postseason.