E-Rod to start G4 after Pivetta's G3 heroics

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BOSTON -- Plan A for Red Sox manager Alex Cora was to hold Nick Pivetta out of Sunday’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays so he could hand the ball to the righty for a start in Game 4 on Monday.

But as often happens with Cora during the month of October, he went off-script in his all-out approach to seize the moment.

This certainly happened on Sunday, as Pivetta pitched the 10th through 13th innings and didn’t allow a run, earning the win as the Red Sox earned a memorable 6-4, extra-inning victory that gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

So what’s the plan now for Game 4, in which the Red Sox have a chance to close out the Rays and move on to the AL Championship Series? That job will fall to Eduardo Rodriguez, the veteran lefty who has a chance at redemption after he got only five outs while throwing 41 pitches in Boston’s 5-0 loss in Game 1.

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It would hardly be surprising to see Rodriguez flip the script on Monday night, because he’s done that all season -- often following his best starts with a subpar one, and vice versa.

Without question, Rodriguez will carry plenty of emotion into the matchup, considering he is eligible for free agency this offseason. The 28-year-old has been with the Red Sox since 2015, and there’s a chance that Game 4 could be his final Fenway Park start wearing a home uniform.

In order to reach Monday up two games to one with a chance to clinch at home, the Red Sox got a huge outing from Pivetta, who threw 67 pitches on two days’ rest after tossing 73 pitches in relief in Game 1.

“It’s fine,” said Pivetta. “It’s just another day for me. [I feel] great.”

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Aside from Pivetta, Cora didn’t tax anyone in the bullpen in Game 3, leaving Boston in good shape for Monday’s potential close-out game.

Cora used six relievers, but that didn’t include Chris Sale, who could face a pocket of lefties in Game 4 after his disappointing start in Game 2 on Friday lasted just one inning and 30 pitches.

It remains to be seen if Cora will use his best bullpen weapon in 25-year-old rookie Tanner Houck, who fired five electric innings and threw 61 pitches in Game 2.

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Though conventional wisdom could have Cora holding Houck back for a potential winner-take-all Game 5, there is nothing conventional about the way Boston’s manager handles postseason games.

That was evident before the team even got to the ballpark on Sunday.

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“We were all in, and they knew it,” said Cora. “We texted all the starters yesterday and we said ‘Spikes on,’ and they understand what that is. We might do it differently than other teams, but when you get to that stage, you take it day by day.”

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