By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
Everything Alex Cora has touched this October has turned to gold.
Game 1 of the World Series was no different.
Once again, the first-year skipper pressed the right button, pinch-hitting for the red-hot Rafael Devers in the bottom of the seventh with the ice-cold Eduardo Nunez. Nunez came through with the biggest hit of his career, a three-run home run that put the game out of reach.
Of course it worked out. Why wouldn’t it work out?
That’s just the way it’s going for Alex Cora. He’s on a run for the ages.
Even Cora’s moves that have felt wrong this October, like going to a struggling Craig Kimbrel for six outs in Game 4 of the ALCS, have all paid off. Somehow, someway, whatever Cora decides to do ends up working in the end.
The Nunez move wasn’t the only right decision that Cora made in Game 1. He managed his bullpen effectively, something he has done consistently this October.
Cora once again picked a good spot for the suddenly-somewhat-reliable Joe Kelly, who tossed a 1-2-3 sixth against the bottom of the Los Angeles order. Kelly deserves plenty of credit for the way he has pitched in the playoffs, but Cora deserves a great deal of credit too for repeatedly putting him in a favorable position to succeed.
He stayed with Ryan Brasier for Manny Machado in the seventh with the bases loaded, opting to avoid Nathan Eovaldi because it would not have been a clean inning for the starter. Brasier limited the Dodgers best hitter to a sacrifice fly, wrapping up an uneven outing with a big out.
Cora then went to Eduardo Rodriguez for the highest leverage situation of his career. Rodriguez responded, getting Cody Bellinger to fly out to end the seventh.
It was arguably the biggest out of the game, and Eddie Rodriguez got it. Who saw that coming?
Nathan Eovaldi pitched a scoreless eighth, representing the fifth time Cora has used one of his starting pitchers out of the bullpen this October. His “rovers,” Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale have not allowed a run in any of their bullpen appearances.
The decision to use his starters aggressively in relief has been arguably the biggest reason why the Red Sox bullpen has turned things around in October. The manager has fixed a problem that many thought could not be fixed.
At this point, it seems like Cora could put Drew Pomeranz into a game and he would find a way to get a big out.
Okay, maybe Cora’s not that good.
But there’s no doubt about this: he is good. He has changed the culture surrounding the team for the better, but it’s also clear that he has been an upgrade in the dugout during the games, too.
John Farrell wouldn’t be managing this way. Not a chance in hell.
Use any tired old sports cliché you want to describe the Red Sox manager right now. He’s on a run, he’s on fire, he’s in the zone.
Alex Cora can do no wrong.