For the second straight night, the Boston Red Sox have pulled out stressful wins against the Washington Nationals as they cling on to their postseason hopes.
And for the second straight night, their manager has looked absolutely exhausted in his postgame media availabilities.
Who could blame him with all the drama his team has provided — such as in their 5-3 win over the Nationals, where a ninth-inning rally was absolutely necessary.
“I’m grinding,” Alex Cora admitted after the game via Zoom. “I love this. I love this. This is what I’m here for. I enjoyed it. Every pitch means a lot. It means everything to me. And I love the fact that after games I’m exhausted because I do care about this team, I do care about this organization, I do care about my players.”
This game was mostly pitching, as the Boston bats mustered just three hits through the first eight innings. But Tanner Houck’s perfect start, Ryan Brasier’s heroics in relief and a ninth-inning rally helped overcome that drought.
Now, the Red Sox pull even with the New York Yankees for the first American League wild card spot.
So while they may be taking years of their manager’s life, not to mention their fans’, Houck believes the chaos will bring them closer as a team.
“I love everything that’s happened in the past few days, I mean, it’s one of those things where I believe it brings a team together even more,” Houck said. “So I’ve loved the craziness of the past few days, and just going out there and everyone’s competing at the top shelf of competing and just going out there and really given everything they have no matter what. I’ve loved it, and look forward to coming back tomorrow and doing it again.”
It’s true. With their backs against the wall and one frame to prevent extra innings. Christian Vázquez got it going with an RBI triple, and Travis Shaw and Kiké Hernández hit consecutive homers after that to help him answer the call.
For that reason, they still get to play after Sunday, the regular season finale. Expect drama then, too.
“I mean total team effort,” Cora said. “It wasn’t easy. (Expletive) — it hasn’t been easy the whole season. The fact that we know that tomorrow counts, this is gratifying.”
Here are more notes from Red Sox-Nationals
— Tanner Houck, on three days of rest, gave more than what Boston could have asked of him. The righty threw five innings of hitless, scoreless ball without a walk and retired all 15 batters he faced. Houck threw 39 of his 53 pitches for strikes, helping him earn a career-high eight strikeouts.
Cora pulled him amid a perfect game, but if Houck was upset by that, he didn’t show it.
“For me, obviously it’s easy to say it was difficult to come out and stuff like that but for me, I’d much rather us get a win,” Houck said. “I’d much rather be team-oriented, especially in times like this. So to hand the bat off to a guy that actually does it every day, you know, it is still a little bit hard but for me like I’d much rather this team get a win and just continue to go forward.”
— Houck ended up handing the ball to Garrett Richards, who was then relieved by Brasier, who has been great for Boston since his activation (despite all the time he missed and everything this year has thrown at him between injuries and the passing of his father.)
After loading the bases in an intense frame, he recorded two strikeouts, including the third out, to get the Red Sox out of the jam unscathed. Understandably, he was pretty fired up.
“Today was the first time I ever pitched four days in a row,” Brasier said.
“I don’t really get that intense and stuff after a pitch but, like I said, it’s been a tough year and getting to getting to keep throwing in games like this and in tight spots it just, you know, kind of came out.”
— Rafael Devers got Boston on the board with a solo homer in the fourth for his 36th blast of the season, helping him tie Ted Williams for most homers hit by a Red Sox player under the age of 25.
— The Red Sox have one more game left in the regular season, and the result of that finale against the Nationals is all that’s in their control as other AL teams will shift the playoff picture with the games they have left as well.
It looks like Chris Sale will be getting the ball.
“That’s the plan for now,” Cora said.
First pitch Sunday between Boston and Washington is 3:05 p.m. ET.