NEW YORK — Moving Kiké Hernández to the seven-hole Saturday proved to be the right move after he delivered a go-ahead double off Yankee reliever Chad Green. It led to a four-run eighth inning for the Sox and a 7-3 victory. The Sox will have a chance at a sweep Sunday.
“He struggled early on but he stuck with his plan,” Cora said afterward. “He’s been working on a lot of things.”
Hernández, who was given a mental breather the last couple of games, entered Saturday batting .228 with a .284 on-base percentage. Santana hasn’t been better than Hernández, batting just .125 in his first 36 plate appearances, which intimates that the Sox are still trying to figure out who is best suited for the leadoff spot. Nonetheless, Cora believes Santana brings an element of speed that the Sox have lacked at the top of their lineup.
“Hopefully we can exploit a few things from their starter and be more aggressive on the base path,” Cora said. “So that that came into control our consideration and also the fact that sometimes you have to breathe. Hitting Kiké seventh he’ll see the pitcher for one inning, and he can get feedback from other hitters.”
Batting Alex Verdugo first seems like it would be the obvious choice. He thrived at it last season, hitting .304 from that spot with a .362 OBP, and .442 slugging percentage. Yet Cora said it’s not that simple, saying if they make one shift in the lineup, another part might take a hit. Furthermore, Cora likes what Verdugo provides the Sox from the two-hole.
“I think Alex actually is our complete hitter,” Cora said. “In the era we are currently in, they say that you should hit your best hitter second, right. So we like it there. We like J.D. [Martinez] behind him. I like to split up Alex and [Rafael Devers].
Cora noted that it also makes it harder for teams to play the matchup considering the reality that Martinez and Xander Bogaerts trail Verdugo in the order.
“If I’m managing against the Red Sox, I’ll be very careful to bring a lefty for Verdugo having those two guys behind him,” Cora said.
Ottavino had an inkling
When Adam Ottavino inked a three-year $27 million deal with the Yankees, it was a homecoming for the reliever who grew up in Brooklyn and a Yankee fan. Yet after his first two seasons with the club, he knew there was a strong possibility that homecoming would be cut short.
“I kind of felt it coming just because I knew they wanted to stay the under the tax number,” Ottavino said. “And obviously, they didn’t really use me much in the playoffs. So it just seemed like it kind of made sense a little bit from that perspective. II didn’t expect to come to the Red Sox, but I kind of felt like I might get traded.”
The Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) is set at $210 million this season. The Yankees’ 40-man roster payroll is just above $190 million.
Ottavino got off to a shaky start with the Red Sox this year, but has found his groove. Ottavino hasn’t allowed a run in his last nine appearances (7⅔ innings), striking out 11 batters in that span. He has a 2.91 ERA in 21⅔ innings pitched this year, fanning 28 batters.
“This year, I’ve been able to work my four-seam and my curveball into the game,” Ottavino said. “And a lot of credit to Jason Varitek for kind of pushing me to use my four-seamer. One game in particular stands out against the Angels. I threw like eight or nine four-seamers through Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and those guys. I had success and that gave me a lot more confidence to keep keep it in my game plan.”
Martinez was a late scratch for Saturday’s game. The designated hitter jammed his wrist while sliding into second in Friday night’s game. “He showed up today. He’s a little bit sore,” Cora said. “So we’ll take care of him today. And if we need him later in the game, if he feels good, then probably we’ll use him.” … Ryan Brasier has a concussion and a cut over his ear after being struck with a line drive during a simulated game in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday. He has been released from the hospital and is resting at home … Team USA punched its ticket to the Olympics with its 4-2 win against Venezuela. Jarren Duran batted second and was 1 for 4 with a strikeout. Triston Casas batted fifth and was 1 for 3 with a walk.