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Here's what champs had that no one else did

Cora rose to occasion in unforgettable rookie season as manager
MLB.com @MikeLupica

No manager in the history of the baseball postseason, not one, did a better managing job than Alex Cora just did with the Red Sox. At the end of it for the Red Sox, start there.

Dress like the World Series champs

No manager in the history of the baseball postseason, not one, did a better managing job than Alex Cora just did with the Red Sox. At the end of it for the Red Sox, start there.

Dress like the World Series champs

Of course, not everything Cora did was right. On the night when the Dodgers could have evened this World Series at two games apiece, Cora stayed with Eduardo Rodriguez one batter too long, Yasiel Puig hit a three-run homer and the Dodgers led, 4-0. They hadn't lost a game all season in that situation. Now, they were three innings away from tying the 2018 World Series.

But the Dodgers were up against Cora's Red Sox, who proceeded to score the next nine runs of Game 3 to take a 3-1 lead over the Dodgers. Cora's Red Sox did that after losing a grueling and historic and heartbreaking 18-inning, 7 1/2-hour game that had ended after midnight in Los Angeles, and in the middle of the night back in Boston.

:: World Series schedule and results ::

And perhaps Cora, after all the games he helped win for his team with the creative way he had managed it in October, was at his very best after one it lost.

"It's not crushing at all," Cora said after Game 3. "I just talked to them. I told them how proud I am. The effort was amazing. That was a great baseball game. It's probably one of the best -- if not the best -- game I've ever been a part of."

One last time, the Red Sox took their lead from the brilliant young baseball man hired by ownership and by president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to lead them. Dombrowski was pretty brilliant himself in assembling the 2018 Red Sox. He traded for Steve Pearce, who would become the World Series MVP Award winner, in June, and he dealt for Nathan Eovaldi, the pitching star of October for the Red Sox, in July. But the best move he made for the '18 team was his first: Hiring Cora away from the Astros, where a year ago he had watched AJ Hinch do a pretty great managing job himself.

This is what Hinch says about his former bench coach now:

"Alex does a great job of balancing what he sees and the information analytically. That is so key this time of year. He's very prepared, knows his team inside and out and is staying convicted with his decision making. I'm really impressed with his balance. Maybe he took things from last year because it feels similar, but he is doing a great job handling it all."

Video: WS2018 Gm5: Sox on Cora's rookie managerial season

Yeah, Cora took things from last year -- particularly from the way Hinch wasn't afraid to pitch his best starters in relief, starting with Justin Verlander in Game 4 of the 2017 American League Division Series at Fenway Park, where the Astros closed out the Red Sox. Then Cora watched as Lance McCullers Jr., another starter, finished Game 7 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees, pitching in relief of Charlie Morton. Finally, Cora watched Morton pitch in relief of McCullers, who was Hinch's starter in Game 7 of the World Series.

"What I learned in the playoffs is that you worry about tomorrow, tomorrow," Cora said during the Red Sox-Yankees ALDS this year.

Cora's cool presence in Year 1 inspires Sox

By then, Cora had already pitched Rick Porcello, one of his starters and the 2016 Cy Young Award winner, in the eighth inning of Game 1 against the Yankees. Cora would pitch Chris Sale -- who would eventually strike out the side in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series against the Dodgers -- in the eighth inning of Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, on the night the Red Sox closed out their division rivals.

Video: WS2018 Gm5: Cora on winning WS in his 1st year

Cora had David Price warming up in the bullpen at the end of Game 4 against the Astros in the ALCS, then started Price in Game 5 and watched Price beat Verlander. Cora used Eovaldi as a starter and out of the bullpen, watching as everybody did as Eovaldi pitched six gallant innings at the end of Game 3 before Max Muncy finally beat him with his walk-off home run in the bottom of the 18th.

After that game, Cora and his players stood in the visitors' clubhouse. And you know what they all did? They cheered Eovaldi. And perhaps themselves. And perhaps reminded themselves that every single time they had been tested this postseason -- when it was 1-1 against the Yankees, when it was 1-1 against the Astros -- they had responded like champions. That same night, they came back from down 4-0 and looked like champions.

This all starts at the top. Sale threw the first pitch of this World Series for the Red Sox and the last pitch. When it was just assumed he would start Game 5, Cora went with Price. When the momentum of the ALDS seemed to be going the Yankees' way after they'd won Game 2 with a bunch of home runs, Cora put Brock Holt and Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez into the lineup, and they all hit like crazy -- Holt became the first man in postseason history to hit for the cycle -- and the Red Sox won, 16-1.

"We followed [Cora]," Pearce said in Los Angeles when it was over.

Other rookie managers have watched their team win the World Series before. No manager was better or more creative than Cora, who didn't worry about tomorrow until it came around.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox