Red Sox

Notes: A long, strong night for Buchholz


Notes: A long, strong night for Buchholz

By MaureenMullen

BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz threw more pitches, 127, than hed ever thrown before.

It was more pitches than any other Red Sox starter this season, and any other pitcher in baseball besides Philadelphias Roy Halladay, who threw 130 on April 24 against the Padres.

It was more pitches than just about any pitcher had ever thrown in a Sox uniform for manager Terry Francona. The last Sox pitcher who threw more was Jon Lester, in his no-hitter almost three years ago to the day May 19, 2008 against the Royals.

Buchholz went seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 3.42, giving up four hits and a walk, matching a season high with seven strikeouts, helping the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 1-0, on a miserably rainy night at Fenway Park.

He was terrific, and he needed to be, because their guy Tigers starter Phil Coke was pretty good, too, said manager Terry Francona. "He had a high pitch count, but I think part of it is he threw a lot of strikes. Just ran to lot a 3-and-2 counts, lot of swings and misses. The couple times he got in a bind he pitched out of it. And good changeup. Elevated his fastball when he wanted to. And really pitched well.

Despite his efforts, though, he did not get the win. Jarrod Saltalamacchias double off the Wall in the eighth inning scored Carl Crawford for the games only run. But by that time, Buchholz had given way to Daniel Bard, who earned his first win of the season.

"He was on tonight, Saltalamacchia said of Buchholz. He's been on the last three starts I've caught him. Had that sinker working, keeping the ball down. A lot of his pitches were foul balls. They kept fouling them and working the pitch count. He still gave us strong innings and got us what we needed.

It was not an easy night to pitch rainy, cold, foggy, and windy. The game had a 26-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth.

"Yeah it's tough, Saltalamacchia said. Rain's coming. Sitting there in cold. Tough to go out there. Both pitchers Buchholz and Coke were prepared.

The Tigers lefty matched Buchholz, going seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits and a walk with four strikeouts, needing just 78 pitches.

It was just the elements of playing here, Buchholz said. This homestand, this stretch of weather that weve had, I dont think its easy for anybody to go out there and throw. Their guy matched every pitch I threw only about half of them though. It was tough at times but thats some of the things you have to deal with.

Buchholz was pleased with all his pitches, especially his two-seam fastball and cutter. He retired the first eight batters he faced before walking Brandon Inge. He didnt allow a hit until Miguel Cabreras double with two outs in the fourth. The walk to Inge was the only one of the game, setting a career-long streak of three starts with one or fewer walks.

Two-seam was there again tonight. Felt good with the cutter. Threw a lot of cutters there at the end, just a pitch they were making contact with but wasnt squaring it up. So I guess got to keep throwing whats working for you. Threw some really good pitches they fouled off and went into some deep counts. Probably didn't throw enough curveballs. Had a good curveball tonight but after the fourth or fifth innings didnt go back to it because I felt really good throwing the changeup or two-seam in.

He was not affected, he said, by the number of pitches or the weather.

I felt pretty good, he said. I was trying to overthrow a couple of times. Sometimes when you throw harder it doesnt come out near as good so I think that was something that had to do with that. Body felt good, legs felt fine. I felt like I still had my legs underneath me. It was the first time Ive done that so I was obviously looking over at the scoreboard seeing how many pitches Id thrown and you're almost at he end of it but I was glad that Tito left me out there without giving up all those runs. I felt better me giving them up than somebody else feeling sorry about it.

He also matched his career high with two hit two batters in the seventh -- Jhonny Peralta with one out and Brandon Inge with two outs -- which he set on June 20, 2010 against the Dodgers. It was the first time he has hit a batter this season.

I just didnt want to miss middle, he said. Supposed be sinkers in. Just came out wrong. Definitely not trying hit anybody in that position.

With two-fifths of the Red Sox starting rotation going to the disabled list this week John Lackey Monday with an elbow strain and Daisuke Matsuzaka Wednesday with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament Buchholz said he felt no more responsibility to go deep into the game than he would on any other night.

No, our bullpen is good, he said. They can come in and do the job if one of the starters doesnt do it. My mindsets going out there and trying to pitch deep in the game regardless of whats going on with everyone else. Just trying to help this team get back in the dugout and score some runs for us.

Not everyone saw it that way, though.

Buchholz was phenomenal, said Jonathan Papelbon, who earned his eighth save with a scoreless ninth. He was able to hand the ball off to Bard, then myself. That for us is huge, not only for this game but tomorrow as well.

One game after compiling a season-high 15 hits in a nine-inning game, the Sox had just four, all singles, except for Saltalamacchia's RBI double in the eighth.

Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-2 extending his hit streak to six games. He is batting .348 (8-for-23) in that stretch.

Jed Lowrie went 1-for-2 off Phil Coke and is now 8 for his last 13 (.615) off left-handers since the start of May.

Saltalamacchia has 10 RBI for the season, and five have come in "close and late" situations.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.


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. 


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.”