This is one of those times as a Red Sox fan and follower that feels so familiar and foreign all at once. It’s like a long lost thought from limbo in Inception. When one win seems like the glorious sound of God, coming down like a lightning rod. This Red Sox puzzle seems to make no sense. The team won 108 last year, it’s the same team, what is happening?
There is trouble. There’s the World Series hangover effect, there’s concern about contracts. And Alex Cora and his staff have their plans that they want to stick to for long term success. What to do when the team isn’t winning?
Play every game like it’s Game 7 of the World Series.
Five pitchers. In one sense it was a bullpen game. In another it was no different than many games this year when the starter only goes three innings. The difference was Velazquez put up zeroes.
Cora needs to do more of this. Keep the pitchers accountable. Every win is important right now or there won’t be a playoffs. Motivate the pitchers to get over their malaise and focus on every pitch in any way possible. Once these guys get on track the bullpen can rest. Most of the starters have their money. Take innings away from them before they blow up, not after.
Little did we know the bullpen would be the strength of the team. Lean on them.
The Everyday Lineup
One of the pillars of Cora’s plan is resting players. He especially loves to give players a day off before scheduled days off. But there is rest, then there is overkill.
It seems insignificant, but that small note, “Betts in right field”, speaks volumes. Betts was scheduled for the double rest, but Cora put him in the field to protect a one run lead in the 9th.
This is a big change for Cora and the staff that should continue. In the past, Cora has refused to pinch hit resting players, much less put them in the field. It signals to the players that these games matter.
It seems like Cora has found an answer to the puzzle of resting players, but not being afraid to use them if needed. We’ll see how Chris Sale does tomorrow to see if he’s still in on Cora’s plan for a slow buildup. And if Sale falters early if Cora will pull him. That will show the pitchers that every win is important.
These are subtle but important changes that the team should stick to to get the ball rolling in 2019. Before yesterday, the team would have to play .600 ball the rest of the way to reach 93 wins. They might miss the playoffs with 93 wins, so they have to pick it up. They played .667 ball last year, we know they’re capable.
But time’s wasting.