Close pitch earns Cora a quick heave Hoye
RED SOX NOTEBOOK
The pitch in question was close, but not egregious.
Alex Cora got himself ejected anyway.
Justin Verlander’s 98-mph fastball to strike out Andrew Benintendi with the bases loaded and end the fifth inning last night earned the Red Sox manager an ejection and put Game 1 of the American League Championship Series in the hands of veteran bench coach Ron Roenicke.
The Red Sox had just tied the game 2-2 against the Houston Astros, who quickly regained the lead with a run in the top of the sixth.
The Sox were going to have to win it without Cora, who lost his cool following the called third strike to Benintendi and was thrown out of the game for barking at home plate umpire James Hoye between innings.
The pitch was a tailing fastball that might have caught the lowand-outside corner — it was difficult to judge on both the replay and MLB.com’s Gameday feature if the ball crossed any part of the white — and Benintendi chucked both his helmet and bat as he had a few words for Hoye. Cora backed up his left fielder with some screaming from the top of the dugout and Hoye had no patience for it.
Hoye had been calling a clean inning as Verlander walked three batters to push in the Red Sox’ first run. They scored their second run on a wild pitch from Verlander, who was nearly unhittable for four innings but lost his command in the fifth.
Holt cycles back in
The last time Brock Holt was in the lineup, he hit for the cycle.
Last night, Cora decided to go with Holt at second base for Game 1.
Cora liked Holt instead of Ian Kinsler against Verlander because Holt is the second-best player on the Red Sox at hitting high-velocity pitches.
“Velocity, and he’s swinging the bat well,” Cora said. “Felt like he’s been catching up with velocity up in the zone and he’s been putting good at-bats, so we went with him.”
Holt was 3-for-10 lifetime off Verlander, but he hit .356 this season off fastballs 95 mph and harder, second on the Sox to J.D. Martinez (.368), according to StatCast data. Verlander averages 95 mph on his fastball.
Eduardo Nunez is hitting .273 off such fastballs, while Rafael Devers is hitting .224. That played a role in the third base decision, in which Cora went with Nunez instead of taking the platoon advantage with the left-handed hitting Devers.
Nunez was 7-for-23 off Verlander; Devers was 0-for-3.
Verlander is “a guy that attacks the upper part of the strike zone and he’s relentless with it,” Cora said. “I felt like the matchup for Raffy to start the game wasn’t a good one. He matches up well against their bullpen. I talked to him already, just be ready, because Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly are actually good matchups for him. He’ll be a big part of the series.”
Moreland on bench
Mitch Moreland (hamstring) was on the bench in favor of Steve Pearce, but he did pinch hit for Sandy Leon in the fifth.
If Pearce is pinch-hit for, the Sox can always turn to Holt at first base. Blake Swihart and Devers are also options. “Raffy took ground balls yesterday just in case in an emergency at first base,” Cora said.
Putting Moreland on the roster wasn’t an easy decision, but the Sox wanted the threat of his bat off the bench . . . .
Everybody but Game 2 starter David Price was available in the bullpen, including Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello, one of whom will start Game 3 in Houston, depending how they’re used in the first two games.