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Cora breaks character, gets tossed in Game 1

Red Sox skipper ejected for arguing strike call in fifth inning
MLB.com @BryanHoch

BOSTON -- The warm glow of a television screen served as Alex Cora's window into the final four innings of a 7-2 Red Sox loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, the rookie manager's punishment for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire James Hoye.

Cora was ejected after a close Justin Verlander pitch to Andrew Benintendi was a called third strike, ending the fifth inning. Benintendi didn't agree with the call, firing his shin guard, bat and helmet to the dirt near home plate. Neither did Cora, who barked from the first-base dugout and was promptly ejected by Hoye.

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BOSTON -- The warm glow of a television screen served as Alex Cora's window into the final four innings of a 7-2 Red Sox loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, the rookie manager's punishment for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire James Hoye.

Cora was ejected after a close Justin Verlander pitch to Andrew Benintendi was a called third strike, ending the fifth inning. Benintendi didn't agree with the call, firing his shin guard, bat and helmet to the dirt near home plate. Neither did Cora, who barked from the first-base dugout and was promptly ejected by Hoye.

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"You can't argue balls and strikes, and I did," Cora said. "It's kind of embarrassing that it happens in the playoffs. That wasn't cool, watching the game in the clubhouse. I've got a job to do and manage the team in the dugout. But sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do and defend your players."

The Red Sox had erased a 2-0 Astros lead against a suddenly erratic Verlander, who seemed to be on the ropes as pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland worked a bases-loaded walk and Jackie Bradley Jr. raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game.

The pitch that sent Cora up the dugout runway was a full-count, 98-mph fastball close to the outside corner, as Benintendi left three men on.

"It's a big pitch right there," Cora said. "It's ball four, bases loaded. They've got [Ryan] Pressly in the bullpen. Most likely, Verlander comes out of the game."

Instead, Verlander rebounded and was able to work a scoreless sixth before handing the game off to Pressly, Lance McCullers Jr. and Collin McHugh for one inning apiece.

Bench coach Ron Roenicke took over the lineup card in Cora's absence.

"He's always going to fight for our guys and what he feels is right," Bradley said of Cora. "He obviously had something he wanted to say, so he said it."

Video: ALCS Gm1: Cora discusses getting ejected

Cora was ejected just once during the regular season, on Aug. 3 against the Yankees.

"We are [surprised], because Alex is not like that all the time, but he was right," Eduardo Nunez said. "He was right. We saw the replay, and the ball was outside."

Boston's manager has been ejected from its last two playoff games against Houston, as John Farrell was tossed from Game 4 of the AL Division Series last year. Cora took some solace in the fact that his outburst may have saved Benintendi from the same fate.

"At least Andrew stayed in the game and he had a few more at-bats, and he played left field while I was watching in my office," Cora said.

Video: ALCS Gm 1: Verlander on crucial strikeout in the 5th

Bryan Hoch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

Boston Red Sox