BOSTON -- It sure looks like the Red Sox have a ninth-inning problem, but Alex Cora doesn't see it that way.
One day after his bullpen coughed up yet another ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers, Cora expressed confidence in his core relievers and disputed the notion that pitching in the ninth is any different than the seventh or eighth.
He also admitted he can't explain why the team ERA is so much worse in the ninth (6.00) than the seventh (4.03) and eighth (3.49).
"It's one of those that a lot of people have their thoughts about the ninth inning, that those three outs are bigger than the first 24," Cora said. "There's others that feel there's people that are ready for that one. They can do it there. I don't know. I really don't. I just feel that we're trying to maximize our talent. Maximize our strength and match it up with them."
Does Cora believe the idea that the ninth is harder has merit?
"I don't," he said. "I really don't. I just think if you execute pitches you get people out. Yesterday, we didn't and we paid the price."
On Monday, Matt Barnes allowed two runs while trying to protect a 2-1 lead against Texas. The Red Sox forced extra innings before losing in 11 innings. Do the Red Sox need to acquire another arm?
"We're always looking for ways to improve," Cora said. "That's what the organization has done. I do feel that we've got to put ourselves in a situation that, yeah, if we do this we're going to be elite again. So, I think thinking ahead, yeah, it's great, it's always great because that's what we do. But we need to get this right first and go from there."
Cora expressed confidence in what has emerged as his core group: Brandon Workman, Barnes, Marcus Walden, and right-hander Heath Hembree. He hopes the impending return of left-hander Brian Johnson provides depth.
"I think we're still getting people out," Cora said. "That has been going on. You compare us to other bullpens, yeah the saves are not there, but we're still doing a good job. We're still matching up and finding matchups that are going to benefit us."
Now if they could just figure out the ninth inning . . .
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