Alex Cora has built a reputation of making shrewd decisions in his time as Red Sox manager. On Monday in Buffalo, he outdid himself again.
After watching the Red Sox offense’s struggles continue during a lackluster series loss to the Yankees, Cora didn’t hesitate to change things up and submitted a brand-new lineup card. Rookie Jarren Duran up to second, J.D. Martinez and Alex Verdugo down to fifth and sixth, respectively.
“Let’s try this and see what happens,” Cora said before the game.
Here’s what happened: The Red Sox hit three home runs in the first inning, including Jarren Duran’s first career blast and a grand slam from Hunter Renfroe, to fuel a monstrous eight-run outburst in the opening frame, and they didn’t look back in one of their best offensive performances of the season, a 13-4 rout of the Blue Jays in front of a Red Sox-heavy crowd at Sahlen Field.
The lineup reshuffling, at least for one night, was exactly what the Red Sox needed, as they gained a game atop the American League East with the Rays’ loss to the Orioles.
Cora’s decision was largely rooted in maximizing the production of Martinez by sliding him back behind fellow All-Stars Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. The designated hitter seemed to benefit with a four-hit night, but the move also looked to energize the entire lineup.
Duran, who impressed with quality at-bats in his debut against the Yankees, wasn’t fazed in the No. 2 spot as he roped an opposite-field homer that just made it out of left for his first career dinger. The Red Sox were off and running from there. The line continued to move for Renfroe, who smoked the Sox’ second grand slam of the season with a 403-foot shot.
Jarren Duran smashes his first career homer! pic.twitter.com/sFHL9fsCYD
— MLB (@MLB) July 19, 2021
After scratching out just six runs against the Yankees over three games this weekend, the Red Sox matched it quickly with Renfroe’s blast as Jays starter Ross Stripling hit the showers early. They soon topped it with a two-run homer by Kiké Hernández to complete their eight-run first, the first time they did so since July 2, 2015, also against the Blue Jays. It was the first time they hit three homers in the top of the first in franchise history.
It was a busy night of celebrating in the Red Sox dugout, tied for the most runs this season, but they had to get creative. Instead of their traditional rides on a laundry cart after home runs, they had to use what looked to be a water cooler. But nothing was cooling down the Red Sox, who were up 11-0 after two and ultimately hit six homers on the night — including a second from Hernandez — tied for the most they’ve had in a game this season.
Other takeaways from Monday’s win:
— Nick Pivetta was gifted an eight-run lead before he even stepped on the mound and mostly cruised through the night. The right-hander had some trouble in the fourth as he gave up four runs — including a homer to Cavan Biggio — and ran into a scare with the bases loaded against MVP contender Vladimir Guerrero Jr. But he got him to fly out to end the inning and wasn’t threatened again.
Pivetta ultimately went 6 2/3 innings as he gave up 11 hits. After finishing the first half on a sour note, lasting just four innings in a loss to the Phillies, he started his second half on the right foot.
— Danny Santana returned from the injured list with his second three-hit game of the month as he hit a home run and two-run double to give him three RBI. It was a big night for the bottom of the lineup, as Renfroe, Santana and Kevin Plawecki combined for five hits and seven RBI.