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Cora pulls right strings again in latest Red Sox win

Rob Bradford
August 14, 2018 - 9:48 pm

It was at least an interesting conversation.

The situation was this ...

The Red Sox and Phillies were tied at 1-1 with one out in the eighth inning and nobody on base for the visitors. Starter Rick Porcello had been cruising, allowing just one run and two hits over seven innings while striking out 10 without a single walk. And of some note, the righty had thrown just 90 pitches.

Adding to the intrigue was the fact that Porcello's first at-bat of the night resulted in his second double of the season.

But Alex Cora decided the time was right to end the starting pitcher's night and send up pinch-hitter Brock Holt. Such are the decisions a manager have to make in National League baseball.

Coming into the series opener at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night the Red Sox carried the fourth-worst batting average for pinch-hitters, managing just six hits in 39 at-bats (.154), with Holt carrying a career .231 batting average (9-for-39) as a pinch-hitter. He also had one home run to his credit when performing in such a circumstance.

Make that two.

Holt -- previously the owner of just 15 career homers -- turned on a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball from Hunter, sending it 424 feet for the difference-making homer. It proved to be the dagger in Cora's team's 2-1 win over a Phillies team that entered the night one game back of first-place Atlanta. (For a complete recap, click here.)

"It’s just a matchup and knowing they have the lefties probably for Mitch (Moreland) and Andrew (Benintendi). We decided to stay with Steve (Pearce) on the bench," Cora explained. "Hunter is a reverse splits guy, I think. But it felt good. I think he faced him the last time they were there. So he’s been swinging the bat well and we went with him."

Combined with Sandy Leon's solo shot earlier in the game, Holt's blast gave the Red Sox 168 homers for the season, matching their total for 2017.

Cora's decision-making also resulted in a positive result later in the eighth inning when he chose to bring on Heath Hembree to bridge the gap to close Craig Kimbrel. Hembree had allowed at least one run in three of his last four outings. The move paid off, with the reliever striking out two of the three batters he faced.

It marked the latest way to win for the Red Sox, who are now 8-1 on their current road trip. They are also now 30-6 since the July 1 loss to the Yankees in New York.

While Holt had to be considered the star of this one for the Red Sox (who are now 51 games over .500) Porcello wasn't far behind. The Sox' starter continued the every-other-start success he has carried since July 7. This time the righty rebounded from a horrific four-inning, seven-run outing in Toronto. Prior to the start against the Blue Jays Porcello pitched a complete game one-hitter against the Yankees.