Boston Red Sox: Cora Goes Against Formula In Win Over Yankees

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There are few times within the course of a 162-game regular when a manager’s in-game decision has a direct impact on the outcome of the game.  Baseball has become a sport so focused on analytics and formula that many of the decisions managers once made are pre-determined based on empirical data.  In Friday night’s Red Sox win over the Yankees, Alex Cora went against that trend managing his bullpen and the results could not have been better.

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Starter Nathan Eovaldi recovered from a rocky first inning to shut the Yankees down over five innings, allowing no earned runs as the Red Sox built a 5-0 lead.  When Eovaldi began to tire in the sixth, allowing the Yankees to score a pair of runs (only one earned), Cora had set-up man Adam Ottavino warming up in the bullpen.  Eovaldi was able to escape the jam to finish the sixth, and was done for the ninth.

With the score now 5-2, momentum had shifted to the Yankees.  Yankee lefty reliever Lucas Luetge made quick work of the Red Sox in the top of the seventh, retiring the side in order.  Though Ottavino had warmed up in the sixth, Cora then turned to Hirokazu Sawamura to face the bottom of the Yankees order in the bottom of the seventh.

Bringing Sawamura to face the bottom of the Yankees order made perfect sense.  Assuming Sawamura does his job in the seventh, Cora would have Ottavino for the heart of the lineup in the eighth.  Sawmura not only did his job, he dominated the inning with strikeouts of Gary Sanchez, Brett “Megamind” Gardner, and lead-off man and former AL Batting Champ DJ LeMahieu.  Job done – momentum halted.

After the Sox again went down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth, the formula was laid out perfectly for Ottavino, who has been lights-out of late, to face the Yankees 2-3-4 batters in the bottom of the eighth.  Instead, Cora recognized that Sawamura was throwing his best, and that the Yankees had never faced him before, and decided to bring Sawamura back out for another inning.

Matters got a little tense when Sawamura walked Giancarlo Stanton to lead off the inning, bringing up Aaron Judge, who homered in his previous at bat.  Cora decided to stick with Sawamura, and the move paid off when Sawamura retired both Judge and Gio Ursula on strikeouts, and Gleyber Torres on an infield pop-up.  Any momentum the Yankees had built up was now gone, and Matt Barnes continued his dominance in the ninth with three more strikeouts to pick up his 13th save.

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Interestingly, though Ottavino had already warmed up, Cora had Garrett Whitlock and Darwinzon Hernandez warming up in the bullpen in the eighth in the event Sawamura faltered.  Cora stated after the game that Ottavino was fine.

Cora could have brought Ottavino out for the eighth and absolutely no one would have questioned the move.  There is also a good chance Ottavino would have done his job, and the outcome would have been exactly the same.  As Dennis Eckersley frequently says, “We’ll never know”.

But for one night, it was good to see a manger go against the book, go against the formula, and go with his eyes and his gut.  Cora saw that Sawamura was dealing and the Yankees were being baffled by the Japanese righthander.  He doubled down on the situation, and it paid off nicely and took the first game of the three game weekend series and the first of 18 overall match-ups with the Yankees this season. 

The win was also the first for the Red Sox in Yankees Stadium after dropping 11 straight.  It sent a message to the third-place Yanks that the 2021 Red Sox are a different team than what they’ve seen the past two years, and one that will have to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.

 

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_SYN


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Boston Red Sox: Cora Goes Against Formula In Win Over Yankees
Boston Red Sox: Cora Goes Against Formula In Win Over Yankees
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