By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
There is no denying that Alex Cora has been a major reason why the Red Sox have been so successful in October.
But make no mistake about it: Game 3 was a disaster for the first-year skipper and could have major ramifications for the rest of the World Series.
He was exposed managing under National League rules.
Cora has not shied away from making bold decisions this October, gambling to win games to either close out series or take commanding leads in them. He went all-in against the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS, using Chris Sale out of the bullpen. He went all-in against the Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS, using Craig Kimbrel for six outs and nearly burning his Game 5 starter David Price when Kimbrel ran into trouble.
But in Game 3 of the Fall Classic, Cora’s aggression burned him, and it burned him badly.
Cora went to his bullpen earlier than he should have, taking the ball out of Rick Porcello’s hands after 61 pitches over 4 2/3 innings pitched. Porcello had given up just three hits.
That’s when the game got out of hand for Cora. His repeated mismanagement of the double switch butchered his lineup and depleted his pitching staff unnecessarily.
There was no coming back from the mess that he made.
Cora failed to double switch when Eduardo Rodriguez took over for Porcello, forcing a pinch-hitter for Rodriguez after facing just one batter.
By the time the ninth inning ended, the Red Sox had already used seven pitchers, including David Price on one day of rest.
Heath Hembree, with a fresh arm, went only one inning in extras, despite the pitcher’s spot in the lineup not coming into play at that time in the game.
But for some reason, Cora pulled Hembree before he was forced to, and unnecessarily double switched Sandy Leon and Mitch Moreland, putting the pitcher’s spot third in the order and removing Moreland from the game.
He made the move to go all-in with his Game 4 starter, Nathan Eovaldi, a decision that would have worked had Ian Kinsler made a routine throw to first on Yasiel Puig’s should-have-been game-ending grounder to second in the 13th inning.
Many will argue that Puig never should have hit in that spot with the light-hitting catcher Austin Barnes on deck. No matter who was hitting, there’s no excuse for Kinsler. Cora is not to blame for his second baseman’s series-altering error.
But let’s be clear: had the Red Sox won with the nine players they were trotting out in extra innings, it would’ve been nothing short of a miracle. By the time the game was over, Cora had a lineup of Betts, Bogaerts, Eovaldi, Kinsler, Holt, Nunez, Bradley, Vazquez, and Leon.
Going all-in to win with that lineup is insanity. That’s not even a lineup Cora would trot out in Fort Myers in February.
He willfully, consciously, and deliberately removed Moreland and Martinez in favor of Leon and Kinsler, and somehow only got Andrew Benintendi, a .500 hitter in the series, one measly at-bat in a game in which some hitters got eight.
That’s managerial malpractice.
Now, the Red Sox will have to deal with a pitching staff in shambles and a suddenly competitive series. Eovaldi is cooked. It’s hard to see Price working again in Game 4. The complexion of the series has changed completely.
The manager gambled again, this time in a ballpark with different rules that he couldn’t handle.
He may have gone all-in one too many times.