By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Red Sox fans can be forgiven if they tuned out last year. The local team stunk, the season was weird, the ballparks were empty, and we were all dealing with things much more important than baseball. Understood.READ MORE: Hall Scores Again, Swayman Solid As Bruins Blank Islanders
So many fans were likely reminded on Tuesday night of MLB’s new-ish rule, which places a runner on second base to begin every extra inning beyond the ninth. It played a huge role in Tuesday’s game between the Red Sox and Rays. Tampa Bay scored that extra runner twice — in the 10th and the 12th — with the Red Sox responding both times.
In the 10th, Rafael Devers smoked the first pitch of the inning into left field to score Xander Bogaerts from second and tie the game. In the 12th, it was a bit more dramatic, with J.D. Martinez delivering a game-winning double to score two runners — only one of whom reached base on his own.
After the 6-5 victory, Alex Cora — who of course did not manage last year, when the rule debuted — was asked what it was like to run his team under those circumstances. Cora didn’t complain about the rule, but he did suggest that MLB would be better off starting innings with runners on second base and first base, instead of just having the runner on second.
“I still feel that first and second no outs is a lot better. I think it avoids this,” Cora said, referring to the tit-for-tat exchanges that took place on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. “I think scoring one run, it doesn’t make any difference. You gotta score two.”READ MORE: BAA, Doug Flutie Team Up To Make Boston Marathon More Inclusive
Cora’s suggestion is interesting in that there would obviously be more potential action with two runners on base. A smart play would likely be a sacrifice to put two runners in scoring position with one out, thus putting more pressure on the pitcher and the defense. Without a sacrifice, double plays would be a major factor, too.
Of course, changes in Major League Baseball come at a glacial pace, so the league would not have instituted a change so dramatic when installing the rule a year ago. But if the intended goal of the rule — that is, shortening games — isn’t met, perhaps Cora’s suggestion will be considered at a later date. (More realistically, MLB will just go back to the way things were.)
For now, Cora tells his players that if they’re at home and fall behind by a run in extras, it’s really no sweat at all.
“It’s fun to manage. We talk about it. If they don’t score, we try to score one. If they score one, we got a man on second and no outs. And I think the chances of scoring are very high,” Cora said. “So it’s just about the hitter. The hitter is the most important guy. If they score one, we don’t care. And we kept fighting and we kept doing what we’re supposed to do, and we ended up winning the game.”MORE NEWS: Red Sox Game Vs. White Sox Postponed Due To 'Winterlike Conditions'
Cora added: “Emotionally, it’s a roller coaster. But knowing that one run, it doesn’t matter. One run, you got a man on second and no outs. And that’s what we kept telling them when they came in: ‘Aw they scored one? It doesn’t matter. Hey, man on second, no outs.’ I mean, if you have a man on second and no outs in the first inning or second inning, from the first through the ninth inning, your chances of scoring are high. So we kept telling them, don’t worry about it, just do what you gotta do, and we’ll be OK scoring runs.”