Red Sox

Beckett finally gets support, 3-1

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Beckett finally gets support, 3-1

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Theres a reason Josh Beckett has only nine wins to show for his All-Star season despite an ERA hovering around 2.00.

Becketts ugly little reason struck again on Saturday at Fenway Park in the first six innings, but it wasnt fatal this time around.

The Red Sox entered the game supplying Beckett with a team-worst 3.71 average run support for each of his 19 starts this year, but they finally arrived via some timely hitting from Jacoby Ellsbury.

Varitek singled with two outs, and Marco Scutaro followed with a ground rule double down the right field line that was stopped from being more by a wrong-headed fan that reached out to snare the ball. The fan misplay was rendered moot by a two-strike, two-out Ellsbury single up the middle that plated both Varitek and Scutaro to give the streaking Sox all they would need in a 3-1 victory at Fenway.

Beckett was brilliant while cruising through seven innings with no cushion at all to work with. The power righty only faltered in the final frame with a single run blemish while scattering seven hits and fanning seven Seattle hitters as his record improved to 9-3 on the season.

The only Seattle run in the game arrived courtesy of the immortal Mike Carp, who has bashed a home run in each of the last two games against the Sox for his only two big league round-trippers on the season. Lanky Seattle right-hander Blake Beavan matched Beckett inning for inning, and took advantage of several Boston base-running misadventures before their seventh inning rally.

The Sox set the tone in the first couple of innings when a one-out Dustin Pedroia double was wasted in the first frame, and David Ortiz was gunned down at home plate for the third out on a potential sacrifice fly in the second inning. There were clearly a few instances of the Sox shooting themselves in the foot with mental errors and miscalculations in judgment.

Adrian Gonzalez topped it off in the sixth with a rare gaffe on the basepaths while running into an out at third base after lacing a ground rule double down the right field line. All of the mistakes were forgotten, however, when the Sox once again won another game with a dominant seventh inning. Daniel Bard escaped a no-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth frame and Jonathan Papelbon wrapped things up for his 23rd save of the season.

Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury has been the best player on the diamond for the Red Sox many times this season, and he was at it again on Saturday night with a game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the seventh with two strikes and two outs. He then almost made a sliding catch in the top of the ninth that would have really capped it all off. Ellsbury finished with a 2-for-4 evening that gives him 11 multi-hit games in his last 17 appearances, and has him batting a robust .413 over that stretch dating back to June 30. Ellsbury has become a gigantic difference-maker to the Sox and has in the words of Josh Beckett figured it out at the Major League level.

Honorable Mention: Josh Beckett
Beckett has been saddled with the worst run support on the Red Sox (3.71 runs per appearance entering Saturday nights start) and it appeared that might be the reason for his demise on Saturday night. The gunslinger didnt let it shake him. Instead, Beckett dominated with all of his pitches for seven strong innings, fanned seven Ms hitters and managed to hold Seattle to one run until his offense woke up in the bottom of the seventh frame. Beckett improved to 9-3 on the season and dropped his ERA to a miniscule 2.07 on the season a pair of numbers that many around the Sox didnt see coming before the season began.
The Goat: Eric Wedge
Twice the Seattle manager has had games within reach against the Sox this weekend, and twice he probably waited just a little too long to call for the bullpen. Sure its understandable to make that kind of mistake with King Felix Hernandez on the hill, but a baseball manager needs to know when its time to lift Blake Beavan from the ballgame in the decisive seventh inning. Wedges miscalculation took the base-running gaffes of both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez out of the equation, but also magnified his own curious call for a bunt while trailing by two runs in the eighth inning. Also the Goose Gossage handlebar moustache is a little bizarre since were on the subject.

Turning Point:
The turning point could have been when a fan in the right field stands foolishly pawed at a Marco Scutaro ball hit down the line, and turned what would have been an RBI hit to tie the game into a harmless ground-rule double. But instead the real turning point came one batter later when Jacoby Ellsbury turned on a Bleavan fastball and rocketed a two-run single up the middle to provide the tying and go-ahead run for the Olde Towne Team. It was the first runs of the night for the Sox offense and it was all that they would need.

By the Numbers: 93-33
The lopsided ratio of runs scored for the Sox against their opposition in the seventh inning of games this season. The seventh frame is their most productive inning by close to 30 runs and shows exactly how much damage the Sox are doing after chasing starting pitchers out of ballgames. The Sox outscored the Ms 3-1 in the seventh inning of Saturday nights win.

Quote of Note:
As a pitcher it would be more impressiveyeah its a big deal. Its a milestone. But I dont think hes ready to hang it up yet. Josh Beckett having some fun with Sox manager Terry Francona earning his 1000th career big league win as a skipper Saturday night before turning serious.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

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Red Sox hire Alex Cora as their new manager

Red Sox hire Alex Cora as their new manager

BOSTON -- Alex Cora is the 47th manager in Red Sox history, charged with reinvigorating a young clubhouse and improving on consecutive 93-win seasons that fizzled in the first round of the playoffs.

The team made the hiring of the 42-year-old Astros bench coach official on Sunday, a day after Houston advanced to the World Series and two days before the start of the Fall Classic. Cora will remain with the Astros until the Series is finished and has a three-year deal, with a club option for 2021.

A 14-year big leaguer from Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Latin manager in club history. He hit .252 in 301 games for the Sox from 2005-08. He was the most sought-after managerial candidate this offseason and arrives with a great reputation based on his personality, his prior experience in Boston and his season with the Astros. 

ALEX CORA: NEW RED SOX MANAGER

He knows Sox second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia well. The last time Cora was in the World Series prior to this year was 2007. On Saturday, exactly 10 years after the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Indians in the American League Championship Series, the Astros finished off a rally after falling behind 3-2 in the series.

"You know, we've never been through this," Dustin Pedroia said after the Sox won Game 7 in 2007. "This is on the biggest stage. Everyone is watching these games. I remember the Angels series, I was nervous. Alex Cora told me, 'Hey, settle down, be yourself, have fun. This game is meant to be played, have fun. Play as hard as you can and leave it out there on the field. If we lose, we lose. Don't have any regrets.'

"Ever since then I kind of went out there, and I don't worry about anything but playing hard. I think everybody is doing that. Nobody cares about anything, just picking each other up and playing the game to win."

Early on, Cora will have to prove that his inexperience is not a stumbling block for a club in a win-now mindset. This season was Cora's only as a major-league coach. He's the first Sox manager to take the big job without prior major-league managing experience since Grady Little in 2002. 

Cora's ability to bond with players is his hallmark.

"Alex brings a lot to the table," Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "He's a guy that always is looking for information that he could use against the opposite team. And he's also, he provides that information to the player, which is great. He has good communication with the guys, respects the guys. He's always in the clubhouse getting to know the players, getting to know which buttons he could push on each player to make them go out there and play the game hard, which is great.

"I think I always feel that sometimes managers, they draw a very defined line between players and manager. And sometimes they get caught up not going to the clubhouse because they don't want to feel like they're invading their space. But as a player, I love when managers come to the clubhouse, sit down, talk to us, get to know us, ask about our family, about everything. And that really, for me, means a lot. So Alex does that real well."

Cora's hiring comes five years and a day after the Red Sox hired John Farrell. The choice could have been announced prior to Sunday, but the Red Sox were being respectful of the Astros' playoff run. 

In a statement released by the Red Sox, Cora said: “I am extremely honored and humbled to be named manager of the Boston Red Sox and I want to thank Dave, John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy for giving me such a tremendous opportunity. Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family and I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans. At the same time, I want to express my appreciation for Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, and the entire Houston Astros organization for giving me the chance to start my coaching career. It has been a very special season and an incredible organization to be a part of and I am looking forward to the World Series and winning with this group.”

“We were very impressed when we interviewed Alex,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in the statement. “He came to us as a highly-regarded candidate, and from speaking with him throughout this process, we found him to be very knowledgeable, driven, and deserving of this opportunity. He is a highly respected and hardworking individual who has experience playing in Boston. Alex also has a full appreciation for the use of analytical information in today's game and his ability to communicate and relate to both young players and veterans is a plus. Finally, the fact that he is bilingual is very significant for our club.”

“As someone who has played in Boston and knows what it takes to win here, Alex is uniquely positioned to instill a championship culture,” team chairman Werner added in the statement. “Baseball is in his blood and we could not be more pleased to have found someone so accomplished to lead our team. Welcome home, Alex.” 

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