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Why didn't Mitch Moreland pinch-hit? Alex Cora explains

Rob Bradford
July 26, 2018 - 11:15 pm

It might have been one of the bigger second-guesses of Alex Cora's tenure as Red Sox manager.

Heading into the ninth inning, down by one run and facing Minnesota closer Fernando Rodney, the Red Sox were sending up Xander Bogaerts, Steve Pearce and Rafael Devers. Bogaerts kicked things off with a leadoff single, leading to a run of opportunities to possibly get Mitch Moreland's bat in against a pitcher he had dominated (6-for-10).

Prior to the game when asked why Pearce was playing first base against the right-handed Kyle Gibson, Cora said, "Just to keep Steven in the lineup. The conditions are not that great again so just stay away from him. It’s a four-game series so he’ll play three out of four games."

Pearce was the first candidate to switch-out with Moreland, having struck out the only two at-bats he had against Rodney. The righty hitter stayed in, advancing Bogaerts with slow dribbler just outside the batter's box. (Rodney entered the game with a better batting average against lefty hitters - .237 - compared to righties - .256.)

That led to Devers, who hadn't faced Rodney but did claim a single earlier in the game. The veteran reliever fooled the third baseman with a changeup, inducing a pop-up in foul ground.

Blake Swihart, who had only one at-bat against the closer, was next. He also was the owner of a hit earlier in the game, having swung a better bat of late with eight straight games with at least one hit. The decision to leave the switch-hitter in paid off with a walk. Cora then chose to let Brock Holt face Rodney. In four plate appearances against the righty reliever, Holt had claimed a single and walk. He drew another free pass this time to load the bases.

That left it up to Jackie Bradley Jr.

The lefty hitter had struck out in his only previous showdown with Rodney. This time he worked a 3-0 count before the Twins' hurler came back with two fastballs for strikes. That paved the way for a game-ending swing and miss, leading to more questions about not using Moreland -- who is 0-for-5 with two walks as a pinch-hitter this season -- immediately after the Red Sox' 2-1 loss.

"We got all the lefties. That pinch-hitting thing is not that easy," Cora said. "We’ve got men in scoring position with Raffy, and then we felt the at-bats after that were good ones. We weren’t going to hit there for Brock. He’s a good at-bat there. And Jackie’s one of our best hitters the last month. So, I don’t think there was a spot there."