LOS ANGELES -- In talking about Chris Sale's potential usage out of the bullpen for Game 5 of the World Series, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said it would be for the "perfect situation."
The last time Cora said that was in the hours leading up to clinching Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium, when Sale made his lone relief outing thus far this postseason, carving up the Yankees with a 1-2-3 eighth.
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In that contest, Sale needed just 13 pitches to retire Gleyber Torres, Andrew McCutchen and Aaron Hicks.
Against the Dodgers, Sale could be particularly impactful in neutralizing left-handed hitters Cody Bellinger and Player Page for Max Muncy. Bellinger isn't in the starting lineup, but he will likely enter mid-game as soon as Boston brings in a righty to relieve lefty David Price.
If those two hitters are due up in the ninth, it would be interesting to see if Cora uses Sale as his closer instead of Craig Kimbrel, who needed 28 pitches to close out Game 4. Kimbrel also threw 28 pitches in his four-out performance in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
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It will again be a balancing act for Cora because he needs Sale to start Game 6 on Tuesday if Los Angeles can extend the World Series.
"We know where we're at," Cora said. "We know who we're playing, and we mapped this out to be covered and be almost at a hundred percent if the Series extends. So we've got to be very, very careful the way we use him. But it has to be almost perfect. But he'll be ready."
Cora also elaborated more on his decision to vault Price ahead of Sale in the rotation and start him in Game 5, something that was hastily announced following Game 4. Price retired two batters out of the bullpen in Game 3, and he is on three days' rest from his winning start in Game 2.
"I mean, you start thinking about today and the rest of the Series, I think this puts us in a great position to cover everything," Cora said. "David, right now, he's throwing the ball well. He's fresh as far as like his arm. Body-wise and arm-wise, he's had his best movement of the season. We saw what he did a few days ago with velocity. We feel that [in a] National League game, you never know, we might have to hit for him early, fifth inning or something like that. And then if it doesn't happen, he's going to be able to bounce back later on in the series [in the bullpen]."
Aside from Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez, Cora had everyone on his pitching staff available to pitch in Game 5, including Rick Porcello, who threw just 61 pitches in his Game 3 start.
Rodriguez provided guts and humor
A day after Game 4, Cora was still raving about the coming-of-age performance by Rodriguez, who stifled the Dodgers until the sixth inning, when Yasiel Puig tarnished his performance with a three-run homer. Cora took the blame for the homer multiple times, saying he pushed the 25-year-old lefty too far.
Rodriguez admitted to Cora that his one mistake is that he should have treated the 3-1 pitch to Puig like it was an 0-2 count, knowing that a righty was ready to come in the game after a walk.
"He was great, man," said Cora. "Eddie, we talk about growing up, that game is going to mean a lot later on in his career."
Cora was still getting a laugh out of Rodriguez talking about his at-bats in Game 4, which included an ugly swing at a pitch from Rich Hill that sent his bat flying toward Boston's dugout. Actually, the humor was in the explanation Rodriguez gave after.
"There were certain spots yesterday with Eddie, honestly when he swung in that first at-bat, I didn't want him to swing because I didn't want him to run," Cora said. "And he said, 'I was ahead in the count. That was a pitch I could do damage with.' I heard a lot of stuff throughout the year, but he topped it. Like, [geez], he almost killed somebody in the dugout."
No harm, no foul
Dodgers star Manny Machado has been no stranger to controversy this postseason, but the Red Sox didn't take any exception -- publicly at least -- to the shortstop turning his foot to the left and stepping on the side of Steve Pearce's foot as he tried to beat out a grounder in the ninth inning.
Third baseman Rafael Devers made a great diving stop on the play, and Pearce corralled it, getting a key out to help close out the 9-6 win.
"No, I'm all good. I'm all good," said Pearce. "That was one heck of a play by Devers. That was my focus. And I didn't even -- I barely even felt it."
Pearce was asked if he was frustrated that Machado turned his foot to the left of the bag, where Pearce had his right foot planted.
"No, it wasn't frustrating. I'm glad we got the out," Pearce said.
Pearce considers Machado a friend from when they played together on the Orioles from 2012-16. In fact, Machado noted following Game 4 that Pearce actually attended his wedding and his daughter was the flower girl.
"It's late in the year," Machado said. "Our legs are giving out on us, and you're just trying to get to first base as fast as possible. Sometimes, it just happens."
A Game 5 prediction
Cora had a prediction roughly three hours before Game 5 started.
"I've got a feeling that the leadoff guy is going to have one of those games that he takes over," said Cora. "He's due."
Cora, of course, was talking about superstar Mookie Betts, who has batted leadoff in every game he's started this season. Betts entered Game 5 with a .211 average (4-for-19) in the World Series with no RBIs. Betts went 0-for-11 in the first two games in L.A.