December 5, 2022

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After Cora shaves off beard, Sox shake off losing streak

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ATLANTA — Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who’s not usually superstitious, took a page out of his brother Joey’s book, shaving ahead of the trip to Atlanta. Maybe it was superstition or just a clean slate for Boston, but there was no 5 o’clock shadow when the team constructed a six-run second inning in a 9-4 win over the Braves on Tuesday night at Truist Park.

The last time the Red Sox put up more than five runs was on April 27 in a 7-1 win over the Blue Jays. Boston walked into the defending World Series champion’s house with new life, even if it didn’t know it yet. 

Cora might not follow all the unwritten rules that come with the national pastime, but he watched his brother abide by them his entire life. 

“My brother, I’m going to throw him under the bus, but he was to the extreme,” Cora said. “So I learned a little bit from him. But I was very routine-oriented. I played with some guys that were worse. Raúl Mondesi, for example. You know how they throw the cups in the dugout? He wanted no part of that. He will make sure he picks it up. And it’s not because he wanted the dugout to be clean. … He did it all the time. In this sport, everything goes. I think that’s the beauty of 162.”

Even if he had to go against his intuition, Cora knew his team was struggling and needed a change.

Some of the players noticed Cora’s shaven face, while others didn’t. But the noticeable change was in their play, and although it may be just for one game, the adjustment worked.

“There are a lot of people that will walk by my office — I’ve got two doors — they’ll walk by, ‘What’s up, AC?’” Cora said. “And some of them just kept going, so they didn’t pay attention. And others will be like, ‘What’s up, AC?’ and then in a second it was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ So whatever. It is what it is.”

In the second inning, five consecutive batters reached safely on three hits and two walks, before Rafael Devers launched his third career grand slam, which jumped off his bat at 111.3 mph and traveled 432 feet. Boston went scoreless until the ninth and then put up three more runs for good measure, while J.D. Martinez extended his hit streak to 12 games.

“Obviously our third baseman, he’s locked in right now,” Cora said. “His swings and the quality of the bats are phenomenal.”

Trevor Story, who has gotten off to a slow start this season, was 2-for-5 with a two-run single in the ninth. The last time the Sox scored more than nine runs was on April 5 in a 10-6 win over the Twins.

“It was great; we’ve been grinding a little bit offensively, and to put up nine [runs] like that, it’s a pretty good sign for us,” Story said. “A lot of good hits, a lot of great at-bats, something we can build on for sure.”

And if Boston’s offensive production wasn’t proof enough that Cora’s fresh shave was working, the bullpen that had been struggling to close out games was able to hold the Braves to one run after a three-run third. Snellville, Ga., native Garrett Whitlock was the culprit of the three runs, which are the most he has allowed in a game this season. Although the righty was frustrated with his performance in front of family and friends in attendance, his family on the field picked him up when he was down.

“It’s always amazing, I know these guys always have my back no matter what, and it really showed tonight,” Whitlock said. “It shows every single day, even what you guys can’t see, so it’s amazing the camaraderie and the family that this whole team is.”

Now the question is, how long will Cora keep the clean-shaven look? And will the entire team show up freshly-shaved for the finale of the two-game series on Wednesday? But that could be too much like their New York rivals for the do-it-your way Sox.

“They wouldn’t do that. Nah they’re not gonna do that,” Cora said. “But I got a text from [my daughter] Angelica, and she’s like, ‘Well, you know, I told you 10 days ago, it’s on you.’ But you know, like I said, if our offense depends on my facial hair, we’re in big trouble.”

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