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Cora sits Verdugo before Red Sox loss, takes 'responsibility'

Nov 16, 2023

Connor Wong flies out to deep left-center field, and Reese McGuire gets doubled off at second to seal the Red Sox's loss to the Blue Jays. (0:56)

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo was scratched from the starting lineup about two hours before the first pitch of a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, and the decision became the focal point of manager Alex Cora's postgame media availability.

While Cora declined several opportunities from the media to get into specifics, he did mention often that it was "a manager's decision" and that "we need to be available, and one of us was not available."

Cora, hired by the Red Sox in 2018, was blunt and short in answering questions after Boston's second loss in as many games this series, saying that "we took a step back as a team today." He later labeled the day "one of the worst days of my time in this organization," and he said, "I take responsibility."

Verdugo met with reporters outside the clubhouse after the loss and reiterated his commitment to Cora and the club, saying, "It's his decision and that's what we went with."

"It's a manager's decision and I respect his decision," he said. "He's our coach, man. I take responsibility, but at the end of the day, it's his decision."

In a 7-3 loss to Toronto on Friday night, Verdugo went 0-for-3, dropping his average to .270, before he was replaced by pinch hitter Rob Refsnyder. Cora mentioned Saturday that Verdugo was not replaced Friday for the same issue that surfaced on Saturday.

"As a manager, I have to take the charge of this," Cora said. "I'm just taking care of the 26 guys [on the roster], and I decided he wasn't going to play."

Verdugo, 27, has eight home runs and 41 RBIs this season.

"I've got ways to improve every day. You've always got room for improvement and room to grow," Verdugo said. "Obviously, I have to be better."

Adam Duvall took Verdugo's spot in right field and went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the loss.

For the Blue Jays, Brandon Belt hit a solo homer over the Green Monster and had a go-ahead single, and George Springer went 4-for-4 in the victory.

The game ended on a double play when Connor Wong hit a drive that Kevin Kiermaier caught at the base of the left-center field wall and fired to second to double up Reese McGuire, who had raced toward home and was standing at third, thinking the ball would be off the wall.

It was the eighth win in 13 games for the Blue Jays, who hold the American League's third and final wild-card spot.

Rafael Devers hit his 26th homer, a long, game-tying three-run shot for Boston, which lost for the sixth time in seven games and fell into last place in the AL East.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt (10-6, 4.00 ERA) will start for Toronto in the series finale on Sunday. The Red Sox, who didn't originally announce an opposing starter after the loss, will turn to Brennan Bernardino (1-1, 2.72), and Cora said there's "a chance" that Verdugo would be available for the game, as well.

"For me as a player, I want to play, I want to be out there every day," Verdugo said. "For me, I'm going to be ready [Sunday].

"I'm ready to play. Let's go."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.