Boston Manager Alex Cora celebrates after the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-5 in Game 4 of the ALDS on Monday at Fenway Park in Boston. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Alex Cora has never lost a postseason series as a manager. Admittedly, he hasn’t been here that long. Yet in his short time at the helm of a major league team — three years with the Red Sox — he has accomplished a lot.

Cora notched his fifth consecutive win in a potential series-clinching game on Monday night when the Red Sox eliminated the Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is tied for the second-longest streak to begin a managerial career.

Only his mentor, Terry Francona, had a longer streak to start his career. And Cora can move into a tie with Francona if the Red Sox win the ALCS that begins on Friday. Oh, and the managers he is tied with? Hall of Famers Tony La Russa and Casey Stengel are pretty good managerial company.

“His intelligence in this game is unmatched,” said Red Sox principal owner John Henry — a pretty intelligent guy himself.

Along with Chief Baseball Office Chaim Bloom, Chairman Tom Werner and President/CEO Sam Kennedy, Henry had to agree to bring Cora back after the manager spent a year in exile. Cora paid his dues, served a suspension for his role in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal and vowed to win his good name back.

He has done that, and more. He has managed a team that didn’t clinch a wild-card spot until the final day of the season to playoff wins over two teams in its division: the rival New York Yankees and the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays.

“We’re the best team in the AL East,” said left fielder Alex Verdugo with a big grin after Monday night’s victory.

It’s hard to argue that. It’s equally hard to argue that Cora has been the best manager in that division this year. Cora has cobbled together a bullpen that uses starters in key spots, utilizes matchups against key hitters and brings an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to every playoff game. And his players are buying into all of it.

“If he told me to run through the wall, I’d believe that he had something there to make sure it would fall for me,” said reliever Garrett Whitlock before Monday’s Game 4.

Whitlock, a Rule 5 Draft pickup who had never appeared above Double-A before this season, pitched the final two innings Monday night, eliminating the Rays. Chris Sale, the ace who hasn’t been quite the same since returning from Tommy John surgery, was up in the bullpen in the ninth inning and appeared ready to come if needed.

It would’ve been fitting if Sale had come into that game. The last time he closed out a game it was to clinch the 2018 World Series in Los Angeles. Sale twisted Manny Machado into a pretzel for a series-ending strikeout. He may have a similar moment before this October run is through.

Or he may not. Cora isn’t afraid to keep his biggest names on the bench while using the hot hand. Against the Rays it was Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, who pitched extended relief appearances while keeping Cora’s bullpen in good enough shape to get the job done when it was needed.

In the first two games of the series the bullpen was called upon in the second inning. Yet there were enough fresh arms to handle Sunday night’s 13-inning marathon. That’s a testament to Cora’s ability to handle his staff. And his players trust in his methods.

There will come a time when Cora will lose a playoff series. That time hasn’t come yet. There are more walls to run through. And Cora will be there to lead the charge.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: