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October 18, 2021

Alex Cora

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Fenway Park

Boston Red Sox

Postgame 3 Press Conference

Red Sox 12, Astros 3

Q. Can the team play any better than it's been the last two games?

ALEX CORA: We're playing good baseball, I think, all around, running the bases well, playing good defense, pitching well. Offensively this is the best we've been the whole season, and they're locked in right now. The preparation it's a lot better right now. The communication is a lot better. Like I said, now it's not about 30 homers or 100 RBIs. Now it's about winning four games, and they're doing everything possible in that batter's box to grind at-bats and to put good at-bats, and they're doing that.

Q. I was actually going to ask you a similar question. Let me just touch it up a little bit. When you drive home at night, how often are you able to say that this game -- pitching, defense, offense -- that it all came together at once, because I have to assume that most nights you drive home thinking, okay, we could have done this better and so forth?

ALEX CORA: Today was as close as we've been to a perfect game, to be honest with you. We pitched well, played great defense, we ran the bases. We were very aggressive in a lot of aspects, so tonight is one of those that you feel good about it, but at the same time, like we always do, we turn the page. We'll be ready for tomorrow. That's a really good team out there. It's never comfortable with them. We got to be ready.

Q. I was just going to ask you about, yeah, Eduardo's start, and just what you said to him kind of coming off the mound there?

ALEX CORA: "Don't do that."

Q. And why?

ALEX CORA: Because we don't act that way. We just show up, we play, and we move on, and he knows. I let him know. We don't have to do that. If we're looking for motivation outside of what we're trying to accomplish, we're in the wrong business. The only motivation we have is to win four games against them and move on to the next round.

Besides that he was outstanding. Establishing the fastball, good change-up, good cutter, good tempo. One 0-2 pitch that we really don't care because one of the things I told him -- I say hey, man, we've got to throw strikes. Don't walk people. Make them earn it, and he did. The fact that he went six innings was very important for us. It's three games in a row against a great team, and to be able to rest the bullpen for tomorrow is huge, and he understood that. He made some pitches. We got some double plays and all that.

Overall, he was great. It's not that I'm mad at him. It's like one of the twins. Don't do that. We don't have to do that, so he knows. He understands, but we're not that way. We talk about humble approach and humble players, and that's who we are. We like to grind, and we like to play, but we don't do that.

Q. How good of a birthday gift was that? And also, just a thought on the swing that Schwarber put on that ball.

ALEX CORA: Yeah, 3-0 count. We talked about his fastball, and he didn't miss it. We put pressure on him the whole night. He came out of -- in the first inning he was throwing hard, 94, 95. Then his velocity came down. He wasn't able to land his breaking ball, and we are very disciplined. Yeah, we took advantage of an error right there, but good job by Christian putting the ball in play.

And Kyle he has been amazing. He has been really good, and he didn't miss that one. He actually -- it seems like he didn't try to do too much. Just get the barrel to the ball, and when he does that, good things happen.

Q. How much did that walk from Verdugo open up the rest of that inning for you?

ALEX CORA: That's what I was just telling him that five walks, seven strikeouts, you don't see that often from us, but we've been able to control the strike zone, and the walk by -- Rafi walked the other day after an 0-2 count. Dugie walks to load the bases for J.D.

I was joking with Alex a few days ago that his last walk was, like, four months ago it seems like it, right? He has done an amazing job getting hits and hitting righties, but he hasn't walked, and that's part of what he does, just get on base. For him to be able to start that way, it was huge.

And there was some good at-bats too there. Christian put the ball in play. They make the error. 3-0 count. We didn't try to do too much. We get the grand slam. Like I said, we're in a great place offensively.

Q. Alex, you only used Schwarber a handful of times leadoff during the season, but he has been mostly your leadoff guy in the postseason. What makes him so ideal for that role, and did you know he was going to have as big an impact as he has had on this team?

ALEX CORA: We did it out of necessity because J.D. got hurt the last day of the season, and when we played the Wild Card game against Cole, we tried to find a way to protect Rafi, and the only way we could do that was to flip-flopping Enrique and Kyle. Kyle hitting off. Enrique hitting second. That's how it was, right? Rafi hitting third, and Xander hitting fourth.

Then J.D. says that he can play Game 2 of the Division Series, and we're, like, well, you're going to hit sixth because if you have to come out of the game, we don't want to mess up the middle of the lineup. Then this happened offensively.

It's not analytics. It's not a hunch. It's just out of necessity, to be honest with you. It feels really good right now with this lineup. Against lefties we do the opposite, right, but he is just -- he controls the strike zone. He can go deep. He is not afraid to hit with two strikes. He missed the first pitch -- in the first at-bat, he just missed that pitch, so he is a threat.

When we traded for him, we were in a really good position, but he was hurt, and then there were some setbacks after we got him, and we weren't able to play him right away, right? I always said that it was like for Christmas you're on vacation with your kids and everything, and then all the gifts are under the tree, but they're back home, and then for us our guy we knew he was going to have an impact, but we had to be patient. Well, we were patient. We didn't play good baseball. The Rays played great, and then they did what they did, and they won the -- they kind of, like, won the division in August.

But he has been amazing for us. Not only on the field, but in the clubhouse, in the meetings, the way he talks the game, and it's a different approach for us. We were very aggressive the whole season. We were expanding. We didn't walk too much, and when he got here and when he started playing, it was different. It's a different at-bat, and other guys have followed his lead, and right now, like I said, this is the best I've seen this team this season offensively.

Q. Just real quick, is Pivetta going to start tomorrow?


Q. Kiké, when he came out, was that just a defensive replacement or something --

ALEX CORA: He has been running the bases a lot in the last few days or weeks or whatever. Keep him out of his feet is good and getting Danny an at-bat and some repetitions in the outfield is always good.

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