HOUSTON — Alex Cora’s Red Sox don’t like it when you beat them in a postseason game.
The Sox are 16-5 in playoff games under Cora. After those losses, they are 5-0 with a run differential of plus-32, including Saturday’s 9-5 Game 2 ALCS spanking of the Houston Astros.
In 2018, the Sox beat the Yankees, 16-1, after losing Game 2 of the ALDS. Ten days ago, the Sox beat the Rays, 14-6, after losing the first game of the first round. Saturday, after an excruciating 5-4, Game 1 loss, the Sox jumped to a 9-0 lead on grand slams (J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers) in the first two innings and a solo shot from Kiké Hernández — The Greatest Player in the History of Baseball — in the fourth.
Take that, you cheatin’, stlyin’ Stros!
The Sox couldn’t have been too happy Friday in the seventh, when Houston’s veteran shortstop Carlos Correa stopped and looked at his watch after slugging a go-ahead homer off Hansel Robles. It certainly looked disrespectful.
It was a little like Aaron Judge walking by the Fenway clubhouse with a boom box playing Sinatra’s “New York, New York” after the Yankees won in October of ‘18. It was also reminiscent of the Rays lounging in their dugout eating popcorn as they blanked the Red Sox in Game 1 at the Trop Dome.
Just a few hours after Friday’s four-hour, seven-minute epic, all returned to Minute Maid for Game 2. Anticipation was great. The park was filled with orange-clad Houstonians, ready to watch their ‘Stros jump to a 2-0 Series lead en route to a non-cheatin’ World Series showdown with the same Dodgers they robbed in 2017.
Little did these folks know what they were in for. The game started at 3:21 Central, and was effectively over in time for everybody to get home for the second half of BYU vs. Baylor on ESPN.
Houston’s sage skipper, Dusty Baker, opted to start second-year Venezuelan righty Luis Garcia, and Garcia submitted one of the truly awful performances in postseason lore. He looked like a man who did not want to throw the ball to home plate. In terms of urgency, Garcia made Daisuke Matsuzaka look like Mark Buehrle.
The kid threw 29 pitches in a 21-minute half-inning. Kyle Schwarber led with a rope double to right. Garcia walked Devers after getting ahead 0-2. He walked Alex Verdugo to load the bases. Then he threw a meatball to Martinez, who lined it over the wall in right to make it 4-0. Martinez has 28 RBI in 26 postseason games. Eight homers.
In the second, Garcia walked Kevin Plawecki to start the inning. Baker came out with a trainer, and it was decided that Garcia had a bad knee and needed to leave. This meant Jake Odorizzi could take all the time he wanted to get loose.
Odorizzi milked it, big time. He stretched. He long-tossed. He short tossed. Maybe he was trying to freeze Nate Eovaldi in the Sox dugout — “I ran up and down the stairs a couple of times and it didn’t bother me that much’', Eovaldi said. Maybe Odorizzi was just giving everybody the finger. By any measure, it was one of the worst advertisements for baseball. Sad but true, MLB’s players have little concept of how unwatchable they are making their product.
After the warm-up of the century, Odorizzi gave up a couple of singles and a grand slam to Devers; maybe he should have warmed up longer. The Sox became the first team in big league history to hit two grannies in one postseason game and it was still the second inning.
At that moment, we were seven outs into the game and more than an hour had elapsed. Most everybody (including Baker) would have been happy to call it a day and agree to resume the series, 1-1, at Fenway on Monday.
“That took a lot of pressure off my back,” said Eovaldi.
Then came Hernández’s millionth homer of the last week. The ‘Stros rallied for three in the bottom of the fourth, but Eovaldi stuck around long enough (5⅓ innings) for the win. Getting 5⅓ innings from a starter in October of 2021 is like getting a Jack Morris, 10-inning shutout.
The Sox are in better shape than the ‘Stros moving forward. Cora lost Game 1 — the Chris Sale 2⅔-inning start — when he asked his bullpen to do too much, but he gets out of Houston with a split and used neither Nick Pivetta nor Eduardo Rodriguez.
“There’s a reason we mapped things the way we did,” said Cora, whose postseason record is the best October managerial mark since the early days of Earl Weaver.
Houston, meanwhile, has a mound problem. The Astros may not have enough pitching to contain the Red Sox. Houston lost stopper Lance McCullers Jr. to a forearm injury before the start of the series. Neither of Baker’s first two starters lasted three innings, and Garcia is hurt.
Even a staff with strong, healthy arms would have trouble with what the Red Sox hitters are doing. Cora’s lineup is daunting, especially the day after you beat them.
Don’t poke the laundry cart tires. Don’t get the Cora-men mad. They will come back the next day to beat you up and steal your lunch money.
See you at Fenway Monday at 8:08 p.m.