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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Cora: Sox OK being 'lucky'

By MIKE SHALIN
August 16. 2018 11:56PM
Red Sox manager Alex Cora sits in the dugout before the start of Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. (USA TODAY Sports)



RED SOX manager Alex Cora was talking Wednesday about what it takes for a team to be 50 games over .500 with six weeks left in the season.

“I don’t know, sometimes I’ll look at Baseball-Reference, their expanded standings, seems like we’ve been lucky for their standards,” Cora said. “Oh well. Hey, I’ll take it.”

Explaining, he said, “For me, we’ve been lucky with the weather throughout the season … Baltimore aside. We haven’t run into — and it’s coming when we go to Atlanta, we know it’s going to be hot — but we haven’t been to three cities in a row that it’s 92 and humid. And early in the season, although in Boston it was cold, it wasn’t that bad when we went to other cities. I think that’s luck, you know?”

There was one other thing — and that plays for the coming weekend.

“Sometimes you face the No. 1 and No. 2 of teams every series,” Cora said. “And I think we’ve faced them, but sometimes we don’t.”

That brings us to this weekend, when the Rays visit. Blake Snell, the only true starter left on Kevin Cash’s roster, pitched against the Yankees in the Bronx Thursday afternoon and will miss the weekend in Boston. Ryne Stanek, listed as today’s opener, relieved Thursday but will “start” Friday.

Snell, now 14-5 with a 2.10 ERA, is 2-0 with an 0.95 ERA in three starts this season, yielding 11 hits while striking out 19 in 19 innings.

A rainout Thursday in New York could have moved Snell back to today, but instead the Red Sox will get an “opener” Friday, rookie Tyler Glasnow on Saturday and TBD Sunday. And while the opener thing has worked for Cash and his team, Snell is the real deal who has given the Sox all kinds of trouble.

By the way, the Red Sox rested Thursday, and increased their lead over the the Yankees, who lost 3-1 to the Rays, to a season-high 10½ games.

Good games

The four games the Red Sox played against NL contender Philadelphia were enjoyable baseball games. Each team won twice.

With the Phillies winning Wednesday amid the latest Drew Pomeranz failure, the Sox FELL to 11-2 in August. Before that game, WBZ’s Dan Roche tweeted the following:

“86-35 (#MLB best); 10 game lead in AL East; 84 wins most for Sox team thru 121 games; 9-2 vs NL; 59-8 when scoring first; 78-1 when leading after 8 innings; 69-17 when hitting HR; 168 HR matches 2017 total; 27-12 in series openers; 11-1 in August.”

But Pomeranz, placed in his first high-leverage relief situation, couldn’t keep a 4-3 Philly lead where it was and allowed three runs in the seventh inning.

“I wanted to see how he (responds) in a close game,” Cora said. “Put him in a high-leverage situation and with a few switch-hitters and the lefty there to see how he reacted. He threw the ball well in Baltimore. And also, we trust the guy.”

You know he’ll get more chances, but you wonder how many. Remember, at least one starter will be sent to the bullpen for what you would think would be an ALDS rotation of Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price at Nos.1-3, so there will be arms available. Remember what the Astros did last year?

From Elias on Tuesday night: This is the first time Red Sox starting pitchers have ever recorded 10+ strikeouts and zero walks in consecutive team games. Rick Porcello had 10 Ks and no walks Tuesday, after Chris Sale had 12 K and no walks Sunday.

Very receptive

As the Patriots were reportedly in talks to extend the contract of wide receiver Chris Hogan, quarterback Tom Brady had praise for Philip Dorsett and the receiver’s work in camp.

And he seemed to be liking newcomer Eric Decker more each day as the veteran receiver got over some Day 1 drops.

“The thing about him is I’ve watched him play a lot of football over the years,” Brady said. “I mean I feel like we’ve — he’s been on the opposing sideline a lot. Whether game-planning for him, I’ve watched a lot of them. I think that he’s always been on great offenses so I just — he’s got to use his skill-set, the one he’s learned for and used for a long time.

“He knows how to get open and now it’s just about learning what we do and how we do it, which is always a little different than how other teams may do it. But you know, he’s worked hard, he’s been out here every day, you can tell he’s a real pro and hopefully he can add something to the group. Every role is there to be taken and it’s different opportunities out there at every position and you know, if you can play a role and be consistent, dependable and make the plays then I’m sure Coach will put you out there.”

Brady on his future beyond this season: “This year is the one I’m focused on. And obviously I want to play for a long time. I’ve said that for a while, I feel like I’m a broken record. It’s really this year is the focus. This team needs a great quarterback and hopefully I can go out and be that.”

Complete nonsense

Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the first three games of a series with the Marlins this week with home runs, giving the rookie homers in five straight games (seven of eight), so Miami starter Jose Urena decided to drill him with the first pitch of the game Wednesday. The pitcher earned an immediate ejection, a melee ensued and the baseball world erupted.

This was clearly a bush move by Urena, who was given a six-game suspension Thursday.

“What we said with Jose is, ‘I don’t want to see this kid get hit.’ He’s a great player,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s going to be great for a long time. For us, he’s beat us up, but this is not the way we want to handle that situation.

“Obviously, this is not something that we represent or believe in as an organization or myself, too. I would never want that kid getting hit and cause that kind of problem.”

Fortunately, Acuna was able to play Thursday night after getting hit on the elbow. Because he was hit his first time up Wednesday, the plate appearance didn’t count. He made a bid Thursday night to lead off four straight games with a homer, but had to settle for a single against Colorado’s Jon Gray.

Reactions were streaming in from throughout baseball.

In New York, Tampa’s Kevin Kiermaier said, “I was (ticked) off. Plain and simple. ... For Urena to do that, just absolutely uncalled for — and I’m putting that lightly. I’m not gonna use any cuss words — I could — (but) totally uncalled for. And I’m speaking for a lot of other guys, but, I got a kid on the way, coming November now, so if you try to hit me on purpose, you go high and tight, that’s risking health problems and, I’m not gonna say life-threatening, but, that baseball can do a lot of damage to someone.”

The Truth speaks

Old pal Paul Pierce said to Boston.com on the Celtics: “When you have that type of talent, they’re going to have to learn to sacrifice. Not everybody is going to be able to accomplish maybe the individual goals they want to accomplish, but the team’s greater goal should be all that matters.”

Pierce says Kyrie Irving can put his own numbers aside and still get his max contract as long as the team wins.

“Kyrie is a competitor,” he said. “He’s won a championship. He knows, if they win again he’ll get whatever contract he wants. He’s an extraordinary talent and he knows that winning trumps everything. If you win, everybody wins.”

Rockets GM Donald Morey, who just added Carmelo Anthony to his roster, tipped his hat to LeBron James, now of the Lakers.

“I would expect, I hope, that we’re ahead of them and I would expect Golden State to be ahead of them, but I would never count out a LeBron James team,” Morey told Dan Patrick. “He is the greatest ever in my mind.”

Here and there

• MassLive’s Chris Smith dug up the following, tweeting, “I guess Hanley Ramirez was right. Red Sox have 10 game lead over Yankees. He said May 10 he doesn’t think race will stay close all year. ‘Hell, no,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to be like this all year. Hopefully. You know? Hopefully.’ What will happen? ‘We’re going to take off.’”

• Toronto catcher Russell Martin played in his 1,600th game Wednesday night. He is third all-time in games played by a Canadian, trailing only Larry Walker (1,988) and Matt Stairs (1,895).

• Boston College RB AJ Dillon and S Lukas Denis were named second team All-Americans by Sports Illustrated.

• Two players ended droughts with their first big league hits this week: Cardinals pitcher John Gant ended an 0-for-30 with a home run, and Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe snapped an 0-for-19 with an RBI bloop single against the Yankees Wednesday.

• The Dodgers, desperately missing Kenley Jansen, were on the verge of their sixth straight loss, all with blown leads, when they beat the Giants in 12 innings on Wednesday. Brian Dozier, who had the game-winning sacrifice fly, said, “Last I checked, the majority of winning streaks always come after a loss, right? “That’s the thing with baseball, it flips just like that. Hopefully we can reel off a few in a row.”

• Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was in concussion protocol after hitting his head on the turf in practice. Last year in camp, the big guy said he was thinking retirement, saying, “There’s a lot of scary things, and I think my wife would be OK if I hung it up, too.”

• Before winning Wednesday, the injury riddled Astros lost a ninth straight home game for the first time since 1966. “You feel like nothing’s going your way and you’re a little snake-bitten,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re going to have to do more, obviously, and it’s a challenge for me and our coaching staff to get more out of these guys to have a little bit more fun, a little bit more life. This is a very, very tough game and we’re getting beat up, mentally and physically.”

• The Yankees had the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth inning down 3-1 Thursday. They didn’t score and went 3-for-28 with runners in scoring position, 1-for-20 in the losses Wednesday and Thursday.

• The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist was ejected by plate ump Phil Cuzzi earlier this week after arguing being called out on a 3-2 pitch, (which was a ball), and said, “I just basically said, ‘That’s why we want an electronic strike zone’ and that’s what obviously got me tossed. It is what it is. I’m not going to lie. When you’re dealing with that, trying to have good quality at-bats and that gets taken away from you, sometimes your pride gets in the way and you (say) things that are going to upset them.” It was Zobrist’s first career ejection.

• Finally, Cleveland ace Trevor Bauer suffered a stress fracture of his right fibula, leaving his availability for any point in the season in doubt, and also removing a Cy Young candidate from Sale’s path. “I don’t think we want to put Trevor in that spot because we all know he’s going to pitch the minute he can,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “And these things heal kind of when they heal.” And our thoughts to Cleveland’s Leonys Martin, who was battling a life-threatening bacterial infection but appeared on his way to recovery.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


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