Alex Cora ejected after seventh inning turns disastrous for Red Sox in loss to lowly Royals

The Red Sox chose not to get bullpen help at the trade deadline. Chaim Bloom said he explored different options, but ultimately didn’t find a deal that he thought made sense.

It didn’t take long for that to come back to haunt them.

In a tie game in the seventh, it got ugly. Darwinzon Hernandez, who’s been in Triple-A for most of this season, was summoned by Alex Cora and it turned disastrous in a hurry as he gave up four runs – including a three-run homer by Salvador Perez – that ultimately sealed the Red Sox’ fate in a 7-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

At this stage of the season, as they fight for a Wild Card berth and with most of their remaining schedule against the tough American League East, the Red Sox can’t afford games like this against inferior opponents like the lowly Royals, who are in last place in the A.L. Central and just sold off several of their best players at the deadline.

The Red Sox dropped back below .500 with a 53-54 record as they continued to spin their wheels.

Instead of adding to their bullpen, the Red Sox actually subtracted from it by dealing lefty Jake Diekman to the White Sox. Diekman was disappointing in four months with the Red Sox, but he’s still a better option than Hernandez, who spent the first three months of the season in Triple-A working on his control issues and working back from a torn meniscus.

In the seventh, those control issues resurfaced.

Going to the left-handed Hernandez in that spot had logic to it. The Red Sox faced two Royals lefties – No. 9 hitter Nicky Lopez and leadoff man MJ Melendez – to start the inning. Cora wasn’t considering using any of his high-leverage right-handers like Garrett Whitlock or John Schreiber in that spot.

“One-hundred percent. One-hundred percent,” Cora told reporters in Kansas City on going to Hernandez. “We’re not going to bring a righty there just to use him. We still have three more games in this series, and to burn Whit or somebody else like that, it doesn’t make sense. We need to do the job there.”

But Cora didn’t exactly have reliable lefty options to choose from. Matt Strahm is still on the injured list. Diekman is gone. The only other lefty reliever on the active roster, Austin Davis, was seemingly unavailable. So, it went to Hernandez.

“He’s been throwing the ball well in Triple-A,” Cora said. “He’s here for a reason, because he was pitching well and we needed a lefty.”

But he didn’t do the job. He fell behind Lopez 3-0 right away and walked him before allowing a single to Melendez. He let the first five batters of the inning reach.

Bobby Witt Jr. hit a go-ahead RBI single before Perez delivered the dagger – a three-run shot that required an umpires’ review after the ball hit the wall padding underneath the pole and was called a home run. The call was confirmed after the review, but it created confusion.

Cora was ejected by home plate umpire Bill Welke after going out to ask about the call. The manager, who didn’t seem particularly upset and didn’t look to really be arguing, had a look of surprise after being tossed. By rule, it’s not permissible to argue reviewed calls.

“I don’t want to get into that,” Cora told reporters. “I don’t think I deserved to be thrown out in that one. I was very calm, asking what happened and whatever, they threw me out. It happens, I guess.”

Cora said he thought the call would be overturned. But even if it was, it’s likely at least two runs would have scored on the play anyway.

“In our eyes, we thought the ball was in the ballpark and live in play,” Cora said.

As he returned to the dugout after being ejected, Cora threw what appeared to be a water bottle back onto the field.

The Red Sox never recovered as they didn’t threaten to score in the eighth or ninth. The Red Sox scored twice in the first inning on Rafael Devers’ two-run single, but Nick Pivetta quickly coughed it up and they couldn’t get much else going offensively.

Over their last four games, the Red Sox have scored a total of nine runs.

“We have to be better offensively,” Cora said. “It’s something that we rely on the offense and we’re not swinging the bat well.”