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Alex Cora explains decision to pull Brian Johnson

Rob Bradford
August 23, 2018 - 12:35 pm

There was only one out in the fifth inning, with Brian Johnson working with a four-run lead. But Alex Cora made his move.

With a runner on first, Heath Hembree was coming on to face Jose Ramirez and then Edwin Encarnacion.

While Encarnacion had already hit a two-run homer against Johnson, the move was questioned at the time because of the slugger's success vs. Hembree, who had allowed the righty hitter four hits -- three of which were home runs -- in nine at-bats. Against Ramirez, the reliever was 0-for-3.

Following a fly out to center field by Ramirez, Encarnacion launched his fourth homer against Hembree. It led to questions about the strategy the next morning.

So, prior to his team's Thursday afternoon game against the Indians, Cora explained his thought process.

"If you let Ramirez get one base and then you have to... It was more about Ramirez than Encarnacion," Cora said. "He put a good at-bat in the second one, he hit that double. Then with men at first, he's one of the best hitters in the big leagues. He gets on base and then we're in trouble because it's first and third or first and second one out and then you have to make a decision. I mean, Encarnacion goes bridge in the first at-bat, then he misses a breaking ball in the second at-bat. I know the numbers don’t back me up, but at that moment it was a better matchup with Heath throwing 97-98 than B.J. going the third time around. We decided to bring him for Ramirez to get him out. He has a margin for error. If I wait for Encarnacion, we’ll be in trouble."

So, why Hembree and not another Red Sox reliever?

"I mean, that’s his job, to come in with traffic," Cora said. "We were a few guys down last night, so in that spot, that’s his spot."