Bradford: See Red Sox, this is what happens when you pay attention to details

Rob Bradford
April 12, 2019 - 12:47 am

That moment one week before was perhaps the most pointed Alex Cora has been this season.

"I pay attention to details," the manager said after his team's final game in Oakland. "I love paying attention to details and that's something I took pride last year, and right now, we're not paying attention to details. So, that's on us. That's on me. That's on the staff."

It has become a theme.

Forget playing hard. Disregard hangovers. Pay no attention to spring training regimens. This -- along with poor starting pitching -- was the thing that this slow start by the Red Sox was built on -- not paying attention to details.

"It’s a different game when you’re the hunted," explained Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "If you don’t pay attention to the small things it comes back and gets you."

Thursday night they finally figured it out. And because of the micromanaging and loss of lapses the Red Sox were able to skip off the Fenway Park field with a walk-off, 7-6 win over the Blue Jays. And it was all because of the little things, the kind of things that had slipped through their grasp while starting the season 3-9.

"It’s the little things that spark and it’s always the spark that creates the flame," said Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers. "I think Alex meaning was that in the last week or so we let a lot of incidents get by us and not take advantage of the sparks or create our own spark by making the hustle play or grinding out an at-bat."

And, about paying attention to those details ...

"We did today," Cora said flatly.

He's right, they did with some of the most important examples coming at the most critical times. The poster boy for the team's shift in focus? Mr. Baseball, Mitch Moreland.

The stories were flowing singing the praises of Moreland's ability to save the Red Sox season (which might not be that far off). He has now played a significant role in every single one of the Sox' wins, launching five home runs and with four doubles and 12 RBI in 45 plate appearances. But it was how the first baseman uncovered that game-tying homer in the seventh inning, and then the double in the ninth which knotted things back up.

Let's start with the homer.

"The home run by Mitch was probably one of the best at-bats we had all year," Hyers said. "If you go back and watch it he laid off some pitches and battled. They tried to get him to chase in on one pitch that was up and away. He fought some balls off. They threw a couple of high which he fouled straight back and then he hit the homer.

"You have to create those things. Nobody is going to roll over, so you have to create your own momentum."

Then came the at-bat with one out, a runner on and Blue Jays closer Ken Giles on the mound. Moreland knew exactly what the pitcher's plan of attack was going to be so he zeroed in his counter-moves.

"It was a thing in the gameplan, how they are going to attack," the Sox hitting coach said. "I would say that’s a pretty good detail. He was laying off some stuff down but he was ready for the ball up and stayed above it without losing his barrel. Especially for that last at-bat against Giles. That ball is up and away. Everybody attacks Mitch up with two strikes. That was him planning ahead in the game to beat them to the spot.

"I don’t think anybody said a word to him. It was more him knowing what is going to happen here, he’s a two-pitch guy, I have to lay off the slider down and if I fall behind I know he’s going to elevate and chase up."

And finally, we have the player who replaced Moreland on the basepaths, pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez.

After an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez, Nunez took off for third, easily swiping the bag and putting the game-winning run 90 feet away. It was no accident. And it worked. Giles caved to Xander Bogaerts, walking the shortstop to load the bases before ultimately allowing Rafael Devers to bounce a high-hopper into the outfield for the feel-good hit of the young season.

"That play by Nuney," Cora said. "He pinch runs, he’s studying, he’s ready from the seventh inning on and he asked for video of Giles and boom, he’s at third so that’s good to see."

"That was the difference in the inning," Hyers said of the steal. "Imagine, first and second, you still have a double play in order. He can still pitch around him a little bit. But when you have a man on third with two outs that changes the whole scenario. Now he knows he has to be really careful to Bogey and set up the matchup with Devers. He knew he couldn’t make a mistake."

Giles made a mistake. The Red Sox didn't. It was undoubtedly a nice chance for Cora and Co.

"That’s what the great teams do," Pedroia said. "Obviously that’s what we did last year. So we’re trying to get back to that. We didn’t really do the little things that well on that road trip. We did them well tonight."