Five Takes: Alex Cora loses gamble in the outfield

AP Photo/Michael DwyerMookie Betts made one fine play in center, but for the rest of the afternoon, Boston’s outfield defense was suspect.

BOSTON — Facing off with J.A. Happ, a lefty who has dominated the Red Sox at times over the past two years, Alex Cora decided to roll the dice for more offense, and started J.D. Martinez in the outfield over Jackie Bradley Jr.

It didn’t pay off.

Martinez made a pair of misplays in right field that felled the Sox, and they lost to the Yankees in uninspiring fashion, 5-1. Here are five takes from an autumnal afternoon at Fenway Park:

1. The first mistake

Didi Gregorius ripped a fourth-inning liner at Martinez, and the outfielder lost it in the late-afternoon sun, falling on his backside as the ball bounced off his glove and rolled to the wall.

“I don’t care if you’re a DH or outfielder, unless your Superman and you have X-ray vision looking into the sun, I don’t know, if someone could look through the sun, I guess they catch it,” Martinez said. “But it was a tough play.”

2. From bad to worse

The mistake was compounded on the next play, a blooper hit to shallow right field that nobody called bounced into the stands for a two-run ground rule double.

“I think JD saw Brock (Holt) sprinting to it and he slowed down,” Alex Cora said. “As an outfielder you’ve got to take charge on that one.”

The next batter, Edwin Encarncion, blasted a two-run homer to put the Yankees up, 4-0.

The what-if game is always a dangerous one, but there was one out when Martinez misplayed the first ball. It’s hard not to imagine the Red Sox would have escaped unscathed with Mookie Betts in right; the Gold Glover makes both those plays.

3. No offense

The argument for Cora’s lineup card was that the Red Sox needed more offense against a loaded Yankees lineup. They didn’t get any.

No Red Sox runner touched second base until the eighth inning, and the lone run came on a Martinez solo shot in the ninth, when the game had fallen long out of reach.

4. Mr. 1000

Xander Bogaerts recorded his 1000th hit in the loss, making him only the third player in Red Sox history to reach the bench mark before turning 27. The other two, Tris Speaker and Bobby Doerr, wound up in the Hall of Fame.

It was especially sweet for Bogaerts because it was his mother’s birthday.

“She texted me, like, ‘You gotta do it today!’” Bogaerts said. “I’m like, ‘My numbers aren’t pretty good against Happ.’ In the end, I got one and it was nice.”

5. AC’s bullpen games work

The early reviews on Cora’s pitching patchwork in these two bullpen games? Pretty good.

Though the Sox lost yesterday, in back-to-back days of openers instead of starters, the relievers allowed six runs in 18 innings. Against the Yankees, they’ll certainly take that result.

Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at cmason@northofboston.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason

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