Alex Cora, Luis Severino headline latest Sox-Yanks feud

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BOSTON — Joe Kelly vs. Tyler Austin was Part 1. The manager vs. the ace is Part 2.

A widening gap in the American League East is only fanning the flames of the rivalry. Friday night’s 4-1 Red Sox win had a judicious start from Rick Porcello, a complete game in 86 pitches and 2 hours, 15 minutes. Porcello's work made for the fastest Sox-Yanks game since 1994, and a display of excellence that will be lost in something louder than his steady style of pitching.

Mookie Betts played second base, too, a slightly questionable choice that was made not by Alex Cora, but his bench coach, Ron Roenicke. He was managing because of Cora’s first-inning ejection, which is where this night’s tale really began.

Porcello started the game by hitting Brett Gardner on an 0-2 pitch. Gardner took exception, which is silly, because the count was 0-2 (on two pitches, no less). Luis Severino’s first pitch of the game in the bottom of the inning then was chin music to Mookie Betts, who hit the deck.

Warnings were issued and Cora, for the first time as a Sox manager, was ejected. There was no slow build. He was furious, sending curses toward the umpires and the Yankees dugout.

“I know what I said, and I know how I feel about it and they know how I feel about it,” Cora said of the opposition. “I don’t appreciate them throwing at Mookie Betts’ head. If they felt 0-2, front-door sinker had intent [from Porcello to Gardner], well, first pitch of the game, right at the head of the best player in baseball, there’s intent. It is what it is. We win the game. We move on.”

Cora was annoyed too that the umpires issued a warning. His argument was that if the umpires saw intent, Severino should have been tossed.

Cora, a first-year manager, had a little parting shot at the end of the night, one his counterpart — another first year manager, Aaron Boone — now has to weigh a response to.

The exact meaning in Cora's presser walk-off Friday night was actually hard to nail down. He made a crack about Severino’s performance, four runs in 5 2/3 innings, but the question posed to Cora by the reporter was whether he believed the drama was over.

“I don’t know,” Cora said. “We scored four runs in less than six innings. Is that a quality start?”

Then he got up and left. (The question was announced, before Cora replied, to be the last.)

Hm. So, well, no, that was not a quality start for Severino. So maybe Cora meant that, obviously, the drama was not over? 

Or maybe Cora just wanted to take a little jab at Severino, without directly responding to the question. After all, Severino took what looked like a clear shot at his best player.

Severino told reporters after the game if he wanted to hit Betts, he would have done so — a little bit of bravado in those words, praising his own accuracy. Of course, Severino may simply have wanted to intimidate Betts, or send a message. Chin music may have been the intent all along.

Before this series, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman took a little dig at the Sox when he said that it seemed like no one but the Yanks can give the Sox a run for their money.

"You wonder what their record would be if they weren’t playing us,” Cashman said, via MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. “Because when we go head to head, we do some damage against them and it doesn’t seem like anybody else is capable.”

Cora, before Game 1 of this series, was asked about that comment. The Sox skipper pointed out that Cashman also had complimentary things to say at the same time. Cora, in other words, chose to let a little barb slide. A high road, of sorts.

A pitch near Betts’ head is no tiny barb, however. Niceties now seem to be going out the window, a natural tension building on Joe Kelly and Tyler Austin's framework.

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