Right now, every game is a must-win for the Red Sox, but Alex Cora isn’t acting like it.
For the second day in a row, he left a long reliever out to get shelled, letting another winnable game against a superior opponent slip away.
On Sunday afternoon, Boston was coming off an 8-5 win and found itself in position to steal a series win against the Dodgers. With his team trailing 1-0 in the fifth, brought in rookie Chris Murphy.
Murphy clearly didn’t have it, giving up a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. When the Sox closed the gap to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth, that should’ve been Cora’s cue to lift Murphy and try to keep the game close.
Instead, he left Murphy in the game to keep getting pummeled. The southpaw surrendered another run in the seventh and two more in the eighth, putting the game out of reach. Boston rallied for a pair in their half of the eighth, but it was too little, too late. Tanner Houck got pinned with the loss in the 7-4 defeat, but Murphy clearly deserved it after yielding 6 runs on 9 hits in 4 innings, allowing things to get out of hand.
The rationale at the time was that at least Murphy was preserving the bullpen for Monday’s game against the Astros, but that apparently wasn’t the case. Pretty much the same movie unfolded, and the Fenway Faithful could only watch in horror.
For the second day in a row, a Red Sox starter departed with his team only down one. And for the second day in a row, the guy Cora brought in got absolutely nuked.
This time it was journeyman Kyle Barraclough, who had pitched a grand total of 3 1/3 innings for Boston prior to Monday. He took over from Chris Sale in the fifth and proceeded to finish the game, which quickly spiraled out of control and ended up as a 13-5 blowout.
Barraclough had never pitched that many innings in an MLB game before, and the results were predictably disastrous. Houston teed off on him, plating 10 runs on 11 hits and 5 walks in one of the worst pitching performances you’ll ever see.
Where was Cora while the Astros were beating the bejeezus out of his ballclub? Sleeping on the bench, apparently, because there’s no other explanation for why he allowed Barraclough to get torched like that. Any semi-conscious manager would have had the common sense to at least warm someone up, but Cora was committed to going down with the ship.
I get that the bullpen is overtaxed, and that’s not necessarily Cora’s fault. He was forced to rely heavily on his relief corps during July and much of August due to injuries in the starting rotation that were not addressed at the trade deadline by Chaim Bloom. Still, a quicker hook was certainly warranted in both cases, and better maneuvering by Cora might have enabled Boston to win both games rather than take a pair of devastating losses.
The Sox now sit 5.5 games out in the Wild Card race, and their season is once again on the brink. Unless they bounce back to take the next two games from Houston, they’re pretty much cooked. And Cora, who’s done a good job keeping this flawed club in contention for most of the summer, will be the one who put them in the oven.
You know what’s a lot more fun than watching Boston’s bullpen self-destruct? Caesars Sportsbook’s new-user offer in Massachusetts. If you sign up through the exclusive Chowder and Champions link below, your first $50 wager unlocks a $250 bonus guaranteed. It doesn’t matter if your bet wins or loses — it pays out either way. The offer expires soon though, so sign up now to cash in!