Alex Cora explains why he did what he did in the pivotal 6th inning

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Late Night with Brian Barrett- Brian reacts to the Red Sox Game 5 ALCS loss, and questions Alex Cora for keeping Sale into the 6th
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One caller to "Red Sox Review" with Brian Barrett following the Astros' 9-1, Game 5 win Wednesday night brought up the name that sends shivers down the spines of those analyzing managerial moves this time of year: Grady Little.

When it comes to comparing Alex Cora's decision-making process in the sixth inning, that utterance seemed like a stretch. This wasn't to the level of leaving Pedro Martinez in the game at Yankee Stadium during the American League Championship Series in 2003.

But you get the idea. People were not happy.

The anger surrounding what would be a game-changing, five-run sixth inning centered around Red Sox starter Chris Sale. More specifically, it was frustration in leaving the lefty in to face the Astros a third time through their batting order.

Heading into the sixth, the Red Sox trailed, 1-0, with Sale due to face the top of the Houston batting order. The starter had more than held his own to that point, flashing a fastball sitting between 95-97 mph while striking out seven batters.

But then came the sixth and the opportunity to face a lineup for the third time for the eighth time this season. The previous occasions had resulted in an opponents batting average of .304, with an OPS totaling .819. The willingness of letting a starting pitcher hang around for a third time through the order hadn't been common for Cora. But this was different. This was Sale.

First came a walk to Jose Altuve. Then left-handed-hitting Michael Brantley managed to put a dribbler in play with the baserunner going. That play resulted in first baseman Kyle Schwarber seemingly being distracted by Altuve going to third, dropping Rafael Devers throw from third. After a soft ground out back to the mound by Alex Bregman, up came Yordan Alvarez.

Despite Alvarez seemingly locked in on Sale all night - already having claimed a home run and wall-ball single - Cora decided not to intentionally walk the lefty hitter (who hit nine points higher against southpaws) with an open base at first.

The result was Alvarez jumping on a first-pitch fastball, lining into left field for the pivotal two-run hit of the night.

"He was throwing the ball great," Cora said of Sale, who would be pulled immediately after throwing his 87th pitch, the heater to Alvarez. "There was some weak contact throughout the night. He was in command. The walk put us in that place, but then we didn't make a play. Then Bregman hits a comebacker to the pitcher, and Alvarez hits a hit. Sometimes we get caught up too much on third time through the order. He was throwing the ball great. The stuff was really good. He was throwing 97 with a good slider.

"I understand how people think, but there were two lefties coming up too in that pocket, right? Brantley, who he did an amazing job early on, and we had Alvarez. Still, he is who he is, but he is Chris Sale. He is a lefty. He has made a living getting lefties out.

"You got to tip your hat to the kid, to the guy. He didn't try to do too much on that first pitch with man on second and third, and he goes the other way. I was getting ready for the guy after Alvarez. We went there, and they put the ball in play, we didn't make plays, and that happened."

As for the thought of issuing a free pass to Alvarez and bringing in reliever Ryan Brasier against Carlos Correa, setting up the opportunity for an inning-ending double play, Cora noted that wasn't part of the thought process.

"No, no, we didn't think about walking him there. We thought about making pitches," the manager said. "We were supposed to go up, and he left it over the plate, and he went the other way."

As for the pitcher, Sale's biggest issue was simply kicking everything off with that walk to Altuve.

"I felt as good as I did in any other inning, honestly," the pitcher said. "Trying to stick a fastball away, and I couldn't get it down. Couldn't get it there. I mean, we know this since I was 12 years old, lead-off walks are going to kill you, and it ended up being the straw that broke the back right there. That's on me."