Why Alex Cora chose Darwinzon Hernandez with the game on the line

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The situation was this ...

After striking the first two Yankees in the eighth inning, and the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, Tanner Houck proceeded to issue free passes to both Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge.

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With left-handed-hitting Anthony Rizzo due next, Alex Cora chose to call on lefty reliever Darwinzon Hernandez despite the fact that the Yankees' first baseman is a reverse-split hitter. (He came into Saturday's game managing a .326 batting average against lefties, and just .220 vs. right-handers.)

(The choice to go with the sometimes inconsistent Hernandez over Josh Taylor was later explained by the news that Taylor was deemed unavailable due to a back injury, which he will be undergoing an MRI for Sunday.)

Hernandez proceeded to hit Rizzo with a pitch, paving the way for Cora to take it upon himself to talk with the young southpaw with Giancarlo Stanton up next. One pitch later, Stanton had hit a 452-foot, 114 mph grand slam to pave the way for the Yankees' 5-3 win.

So, why did Cora take such a route with his relievers? After the loss, he explained ...

“The fact that his stuff plays, right? He’s been throwing the ball well, and you always have to be prepared for the next hitter," said Cora of Hernandez, who had surrendered just two hits and no runs in his five outings since returning from an oblique injury. "It’s not that you’re thinking something negative is going to happen with the lefty, but we do believe he can get the righty out in that spot, too, so we went with him.”

The Sox manager added, "I mean, there are two outs. We gotta get him out there. That’s why we went with Darwinzon because we do believe he can get the lefty and the righty out. It just didn’t happen. The rules are the rules. We’ve been playing with them the whole season. It’s not the first time we had that situation like this. Just like, he wasn’t able to pound the strike zone with the lefty.”

As for other potential options, Rizzo was 2-for-8 against Adam Ottavino, and 1-for-3 vs. Austin Davis. He hadn't previously faced Houck or Hernandez.

It was just the second time Hernandez faced Stanton, walking the Yankees' slugger in the pair's only previous meeting. Stanton was 0-for-4 against Houck with two strikeouts and a free pass.

Ryan Brasier, who had been warming up with Hernandez, ultimately came on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning. Cora also used Hansel Robles in relief prior to bringing on Houck heading into the seventh inning.

“You come tomorrow and you play good baseball and see where it takes us," Cora said. "After that, we rest on Monday and be ready for the road trip.”