BOSTON — When Alex Cora was named manager of the Red Sox in October, he made it a priority to work with the players on his roster without worrying about the guys outside of it.
Cora knew he was taking the helm of a team with multiple players in need of turnaround seasons. Thursday afternoon, two of those players played key roles in Boston’s 3-2 home-opening win over Tampa Bay in 12 innings at Fenway Park.
David Price, making his second start of the season, continued his dominant start to 2018. Price threw seven innings of shutout baseball, allowing just three hits and three walks while tallying five strikeouts.
“At one point in the game I looked up, I want to say in the third inning and he had 45 (pitches),” Cora said after his first opening day win as Red Sox manager. “I said ‘this might be a short one just like Chris’ (Sale) in Miami. They were fouling off pitches and fighting at-bats. All the sudden he fell into a groove and he gave us seven (innings). He did a good job. He used his breaking ball, good fast ball. He was outstanding.”
Through his first two starts of the season, Price has thrown 14 innings and has yet to allow a run. He silenced the Rays last week in a 1-0 win at Tropicana Field.
“I feel he’s in a good place anyways, from the get-go,” Cora said. “In Fort Myers, in Tampa when he pitched (last week) and here today. I don’t think he needs to prove people wrong. When he’s healthy I think he’s one of the best pitchers in the Majors. And he’s healthy right now.”
While the bats struggled against Rays starter Yonny Chirinos, it was Ramirez that delivered two key hits, both RBI singles, in crucial situations. His first got the Red Sox on the board in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring Mookie Betts and slimming Tampa Bay’s lead to 2-1. His second came in the bottom of the 12th inning, when Ramirez lifted a single to deep-right with the bases loaded to score Jackie Bradley Jr. for the game-winning run.
“We took advantage of certain pitches in the zone, put good swings on them and you saw the results,” Cora said. “Early in the game, a lot of weak contact and a lot of ground balls but I can’t even remember how many pitches in the middle of the strike zone were thrown by Chirinos.”
Ramirez also supplied the game-winning hit in Tuesday’s 4-2 13-inning win at Miami. Ramirez is batting .310 with six RBI through the first seven games of the season.
“He has been putting good at-bats since the first day of spring training,” Cora said. “He’s healthy. He feels he can work on his mechanics and he doesn’t have to try to generate power. He can stay back, drive the ball. I’m not only pleased with the way his at-bats are going but also playing defense and running the bases. I saw him early in December. We talked about it and he told me ‘you don’t have to worry about me, I’ll be fine.'”
Cora added, “A lot of people thought Hanley was finished and he’s proving that isn’t the case.”