Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora isn’t thinking about setting a franchise record for wins in the season. Winning in the playoffs is what matters.
Alex Cora isn’t focused on reaching 105. The only number in the Boston Red Sox manager’s sights is 11.
The Red Sox have won 97 games already with 22 left to play in the regular season. That leaves them a mere nine wins away from setting a new franchise record for wins in a season. The MLB record of 116 wins set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners is still within their grasp but Cora doesn’t want his team to strain themselves reaching for it.
"“It doesn’t mean anything to me, to be honest with you. If it happens it happens,” Cora said of the team record for wins, via WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “We’re not going to push for anything, push to win series. If we do that everything else will take care of itself but when I signed here in November I had my own goals and 105 was way … I didn’t even think about 105.”"
Cora certainly set goals for himself heading into his first season as a big league manager. Getting his team into the playoffs was one of them. It takes 11 wins in the postseason to win a World Series. Regardless of how many the Red Sox end up with during the regular season, none of it matters if they don’t win 11 in October. Just ask the ’01 Mariners.
In order to succeed in the playoffs, they need to get there in one piece. Cora is prioritizing rest and the health of his players down the stretch. Boston has the luxury to coast a bit in September with a 9.5 game lead over the New York Yankees and Houston Astros for the best record in baseball.
The Red Sox are giving their starting pitchers a bit of extra rest this week. By reducing their workload in the regular season, Cora hopes to keep his rotation fresh for a deep postseason run.
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Monitoring playing time isn’t exclusive to limiting the mileage on the arms of their pitchers. Cora has been careful not to overwork his position players. Not a single Red Sox player cracks the top 45 in the majors in terms of innings played in the field, per FanGraphs. Xander Bogaerts leads the team with 1045 1/3 defensive innings played but ranks only 48th in the majors. None of the other position players have cracked 1,000 innings in the field this season.
Pinch-hit opportunities or games played as the designated hitter bump up the workload for a few of the regulars but not nearly enough to put them anywhere near the league-leaders. Even J.D. Martinez, who spends most of his time as the DH, gets the occasional breather. He’s appeared in 132 of a possible 141 games this season.
The Red Sox keep winning despite their willingness to rest star players, a testament to their depth. Wednesday’s comeback win against the Atlanta Braves serves as a prime example. Boston sat many of their regulars yet still pulled out a win when Brandon Phillips blasted the go-ahead home run in the 9th inning. When the team’s superstars needed a break, the Red Sox turned to a veteran making his team debut to be the hero for the day.
Setting a franchise record isn’t the focus, playing quality baseball heading into the playoffs is what matters. As long as they do that then they will end up with the record even if they aren’t gunning for it.