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Alex Cora trusts data, not his emotions. He has managed the Red Sox with cold-blooded efficiency since he got the job, making decisions during games based on the best information.

But he got caught up in the moment on Friday night, sending Rick Porcello out for the eighth inning against the Houston Astros with a 1-0 lead.

Porcello was working on a four-hitter and had thrown only 91 pitches. It was his game to lose, as the old-school managers who can’t find jobs anymore like to say.

And that is exactly what happened. Jake Marisnick led off with a double and, before the Sox could get a reliever ready, Porcello threw a belt-high changeup over the plate that George Springer drove into the Red Sox bullpen.


The Astros went on to a 3-1 victory and Cora didn’t bother to come up with an excuse.

“That was a bad decision,” he said. “That was a bad one from the get-go. That’s the best lineup in baseball. He goes seven; every pitch is high-leverage. He did his job. . . . That’s on me; that’s not on Rick.”

Porcello had faced a hitter for the fourth time in a game only once this season. The Astros, meanwhile, had a 1.048 OPS against starting pitchers after facing them twice in a game.

It was a recipe for trouble. That Springer was on deck also should have given Cora pause. Houston’s outstanding leadoff hitter was 9 of 18 against Porcello in his career with five extra-base hits, and came into the game hitting .417 since April 30.

The numbers weren’t just predictive in this case, they were all but glowing.

“I just made a bad decision, put him in a bad spot and we paid the price,” Cora said. “He doesn’t deserve to lose that game.”


Cora often says he wants his players to be transparent, accountable, and responsible. He held himself to that standard on Friday, which is what you want to see.

Leaving Porcello in the game also spoke to how much — or little — faith Cora has in his bullpen outside of Matt Barnes, particularly against righthanded hitters.

When Ryan Brasier did come in, he got an out, then walked two batters. That led to the Astros scoring again.

Once Houston had the lead, manager A.J Hinch unleashed Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna on the Sox. The game ended quickly.

Pressly, who retired the side on 11 pitches in the eighth inning, has not allowed a run in 20 innings this season. Going back to last season, he has 39 consecutive scoreless appearances, a major-league record.

Then Osuna left two runners stranded for his 11th save when Mookie Betts lined to left field. Osuna has allowed one run in 19⅓ innings this year and converted 23 consecutive save opportunities into last season.

Porcello, as you would expect, didn’t want to let Cora take any blame.

“It’s on me in the eighth inning,” he said. “I threw the two worst pitches of the night to back-to-back hitters, back-to-back pitches, and that was the result.

“I’ve got to do a better job. He trusts me to go out there in the eighth inning and I’ve got to make better pitches at least. If they hit those, then fine. Those were cookies.”

Porcello has a 2.97 earned run average his last six starts and, until those final two pitches, was brilliant on Friday. He struck out only three, but kept the Astros hitters off balance with a vertical attack that filled up the strike zone while staying out of the middle.


“He did an outstanding job for seven [innings] against the best lineup in baseball,” Cora said.

The result aside for the Red Sox, it was a compelling game between two almost evenly matched teams who will play five more times in the next nine days and, if we’re all lucky, in the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

It’s not Sox-Yankees, but it’s a fun rivalry to watch. The Sox and Astros have deep rotations and powerful lineups. Houston has a much better bullpen now, as the Sox see where all their pieces fit. They need another high-leverage option and have time to find it.

Counting the playoffs, the teams have played 31 times since 2016. The Sox have won 16 of the games, but the Astros have scored four more runs.

It felt a little like a playoff game at Fenway Park with all the talent on the field. Not that Cora felt much like discussing the entertainment value of a loss.

“The atmosphere was great until the eighth for me,” he said. “I mean, whatever.”

Carlos Correa (1) and Josh Reddick celebrate Houston’s series-opening win on Friday.
Carlos Correa (1) and Josh Reddick celebrate Houston’s series-opening win on Friday.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.