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October 15, 2021

Alex Cora

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Boston Red Sox

Pregame 1 Press Conference

Q. You have the unique perspective of being in the other dugout three years ago. How do you compare this matchup compared to the matchup of '18?

ALEX CORA: Both different teams, I think. Obviously, coming into that series, we were able to do a few things in September to be ready in October. This year we didn't have that luxury. We've been fighting for a playoff spot for a while. It seemed like September was our October, right, and now here we are.

Their lineup is a lot different compared to '18. Those lefties, you know, they make a difference. Pitching-wise they're different, too. No Verlander, no Cole, but still they have some capable guys that they do a lot of different things. They're versatile. They're diverse. Like I've been saying all along, Stromy, he does an amazing job creating a game plan and doing things that makes them successful, so it's a lot different than '18.

Q. Did the time off help Rafi much?

ALEX CORA: I believe so. I believe so. I think it's going to help him. One thing about all this stuff, I like the fact that his power is not actually pull side anymore. It's still there, but he has been able to drive the ball to left center and to center field. The two homers in Washington, the two homers against the Rays, right, he has been able to stay on pitches and use the middle of the field.

Q. That was kind of what I was going to ask you. Even with what he is dealing with, he seems like he has found a way to be productive.

ALEX CORA: There's a lot of stories out there, right, that David talked to him. I think it's just him understanding what the opposition is going to do to him, kind of recognize him as the guy that we don't want him to beat us. And I do believe he has done an amazing job staying within himself. There are certain times that he swings out of control, but I think overall since Washington and then the Wild Card game and then the ALDS, he has been under control using the whole field.

Q. What have been your impressions of Alex Verdugo, just the kind of player he is evolving into and the personality he brings to the game?

ALEX CORA: He is a joy. He likes playing the game. He shows up every day. He keeps learning on a daily basis, and I think offensively lately he is actually kind of like going back to last year, being able to stay on pitches, using the whole field, hanging in there with lefties. Something he didn't do throughout the season.

Defensively, he has been solid. And I think as far as who he is, they like him a lot in Boston. He's a big personality. He enjoys the spotlight, and I'm glad that he is playing for us.

Q. (Question in Spanish)

ALEX CORA: (Answer in Spanish).

Q. Your team had the lowest ground ball rate in the American League this year, your lineup. I'm curious how much you think that contributed to your offensive success and how much of that is something you emphasize, sort of getting the ball in the air and off the ground?

ALEX CORA: I think the few things that we preach -- and it's not like don't hit the ball on the ground -- it's to be on time. I think we've done an amazing job especially in the second half to be able to be on time and have better swing decisions. Obviously, at home it's a different game, and guys know that the wall is right there, and we got some pull-heavy guys, right, that they have taken advantage of that.

We got certain guys that come from other organizations that probably that's what they preach, and you see it. But it's not that we are conscious about it, hey, hit the ball in the air, hit the ball in the air or do damage, do damage. Actually, it's been the other way around. Kind of like stay humble and use the whole field. If it's that way numbers-wise, so be it, but at the same time it's more about our approach and what we want to do. It's not something that we are actually preaching.

Q. In 2018 the way you used your bullpen and your all-in approach was at least new for you in the big chair. This year do you feel you're back in the old rhythms and use what was successful last time and has that made it easier to kind of prepare yourself and prepare guys to use that approach?

ALEX CORA: Having the experience in '18, obviously, prepared us in '19. It just happened that in '19, it didn't work. This happens because of the work they put in in the offseason, what our medical staff do early in the season and in Spring Training. Sometimes we try to save pitches early on in our innings for August and September and October. It just happened that in '19 it didn't work out.

We have a plan. They understand what we're trying to accomplish. Like I said before, I said it yesterday or two days ago, having Chris, Nate, and Eduardo who lived it, it's easy for the other ones to buy into the concept. And you saw what Nick did, that was tremendous in that ALDS, what he did in Game 1 and obviously in Game 3.

And we feel comfortable doing what we do. You've got 1, 2 and then you have an off day, so what's the point of naming a starter for Game 3? You never know what can happen from here or there. So we'll have everybody ready today. We'll go with Nate and see where it takes us.

Q. We talked a little bit earlier about whether or not there were comparisons between Chris now and '18. What did you learn about Chris in '18 in the postseason when he was kind of trying to find his stuff?

ALEX CORA: It's all about the team with him. He came in relief in Game 4 against the Yankees. This is a guy that as a teammate he is A-plus. He is kind of like the perfect pitcher for the manager because for whatever he has done throughout his career, he will tell you. I'll go championship caliber pitch from the first one until you take the ball out of my hand.

There are certain days that he looks great. There's others that he doesn't look great. But he understands what it takes for his team to be successful, and that hasn't changed. I know the last few hasn't been there, but he has been there for his teammates. He has been working his tail off to get to the level that he expects and what we expect out of him. Nothing new. He has been the same guy. Obviously, a little bit frustrated for what happened the last three, whatever it is, but ready to go tonight.

Q. Dusty was just in here and was asked how they're going to get by without McCullers, and he said score more, which is good advice, I guess. Do you see the possibility that could be an outcome of this series mostly because of the lineups involved but also the pitching is maybe not exactly where both teams might want it to be?

ALEX CORA: We feel good about our pitching. We do. Obviously, it's a challenge because of who they are offensively, but when you get to this stage, you are doing something right, and I think we're rested. You know, we got our starter lineup for 1 and 2, and we got our guys in the bullpen, so we'll see where it takes us. You have to be ready for any kind of game. This is the playoffs.

Yesterday you saw that. It's a great 2-1 game, and there are other games that they end up 10-9, and that's what it is. You just got to be ready for whatever and have a roster that can actually survive or do the things that you got to do to win four games. We'll see where the series goes. Obviously, everybody likes the offense on both teams. We're swinging the bat well. They're pretty good, but we're going to have to pitch to win. That's the bottom line.

Q. What changes have you made to the bullpen for this particular series?

ALEX CORA: You just adjust throughout the playoffs and the Yankees were different than the Rays, and the Astros are different than the Rays. We just feel like in this series he matches up well with certain hitters in the opposition compared to the Wild Card game and the last series, so that's why we had him.

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