Game #1 – from dream to nightmare in half an inning

By Mark Paulette,

Game 1-of-162 went according to script for the Boston Red Sox through 7.5-innings.

Chris Sale dominated a weak Tampa Bay Rays’ lineup, and a few fortuitous bounces, including perhaps the shortest home run of all time with Eduardo Nunez’s inside-the-parker, staked the Sox to a commanding 4-0 lead with just six defensive outs remaining. (They would only record three of those six outs.)

Joe Kelly’s first appearance of the season ended in disaster, as the flame-throwing right-hander was charged with four runs and three walks in just a third of an inning.

The untarnished image of rookie manager, Alex Cora, lasted roughly two hours, as with the bases juiced, Cora turned to righty, Carson Smith, with a left-handed hitter at the plate in Brad Miller, rather than handing the ball to fellow-rookie and lefty specialist, Bobby Poyner, who had been warming in the ‘pen.

Smith allowed three runs in total (two earned, and one charged to Kelly) to cap a 6-run 8th inning for the Rays and was tagged with the loss. And so ensued the questioning of Cora’s decision.

Despite the hideous nature of yesterday’s collapse, anyone who feels that Cora fumbled the game away is simply naive.

While Poyner was ready and waiting in the ‘pen, and the lefty-on-lefty match-up makes conventional sense, Cora was 100% in the right in opting for the veteran Smith. Bringing Poyner into the game to make his Major League debut with the bases loaded and the game on the line would’ve likely been a disaster of equal proportions.

Remember last year? When every move John Farrell made seemed like it came straight out of “Baseball for Dummies” rather than having a feel for the action as it unfolded? Cora knew the risk of throwing a rookie into the fire, so he played the odds and lost. That’s baseball.

There’s still 161 games to be played, and plenty of chances for Cora to be under the microscope following a questionable decision. But yesterday in the bottom of the 8th was not one of those instances.

Side note: Joe Kelly’s era sits at 108.00 after yesterday’s outing. In this case, there’s nowhere to go but down.

Mark Paulette is the executive producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show