BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected from Saturday night's opening game of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros after he barked at plate umpire James Hoye following a strikeout call.
The ejection occurred just after the fifth inning concluded. The inning ended when Hoye rang up Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi with a called third strike.
"I disagree that it was a strike," Cora said. "I got to do what I got to do for my players. We didn't agree that the pitch was a strike. He did."
After working a 3-2 count on five pitches, Benintendi decided not to swing on the sixth, as a 97.8 mph fastball from Astros starter Justin Verlander spun toward the outer edge of the strike zone. According to pitch trackers, the ball crossed the plate just off the corner, outside.
Replays the Red Sox reviewed revealed the same thing.
"It was a bad pitch," third baseman Eduardo Nunez said, adding that he believed the call changed the game's outcome.
The Red Sox were clearly angered by the punchout. As soon as the call was made, Cora began yelling at Hoye from the dugout.
Almost instantaneously, Hoye ejected him.
"You can't argue balls and strikes, and I did," Cora said. "It's kind of, like, embarrassing that it happens in the playoffs.
"That wasn't cool watching the game in the clubhouse. I got a job to do and manage the team from the dugout. ... But at least Andrew stayed in the game, and he had a few more at-bats, and he played left field while I was watching in my office."
Had it not been for another coach's intervention, Benintendi might not have stayed in the game.
Immediately after the strikeout call, Benintendi aggressively turned out of the batter's box and toward Boston's first-base-side dugout, slamming down his bat, elbow guard and helmet. As soon as each hit the ground, Red Sox third-base coach Carlos Febles came jogging up to grab the batter before he could say anything to Hoye.
Cora remained in the dugout for another few moments. Eventually, though, while Boston reliever Joe Kelly came out to take his warm-up pitches to start the sixth, Cora came out on the field and began screaming at both Hoye and crew chief Joe West, who had come over to address the situation.
After trying to plead his case to Hoye, Cora ultimately walked back to the dugout and toward the clubhouse. Bench coach Ron Roenicke took over in his place.
"If you feel I overreacted, so be it," Cora said to reporters. "But from my end, I don't think I did."
Neither do his players.
"He's always going to fight for our guys when he feels it's right," center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "He obviously had something he wanted to say, and he said it."
Benintendi's strikeout ended a two-run rally the Red Sox staged in the fifth as they tied the game 2-2. Boston didn't score another run, and it dropped the series opener 7-2.
Cora believed the strikeout was a pivotal moment in the game. Verlander's pitch count had begun climbing in an inning in which he allowed a run and walked three batters.
"It's a big pitch right there. It's ball four, bases loaded," Cora said. "Most likely, Verlander comes out of the game."
Houston manager A.J. Hinch hinted that could have been the case.
"The difference between that being a walk and a punchout is significant on both sides," Hinch said. "One, [Verlander] may come out of the game.
"And No. 2, it just created a little bit of an issue on their side. Benintendi is mad. Cora gets ejected. That at-bat was a huge swing at-bat."
Verlander went on to pitch one more inning, tossing a 1-2-3 sixth before giving way to Houston's bullpen in the seventh. He finished the night having allowed two hits and two runs, struck out six and walked four. Benintendi went on to strike out two other times.
This was the second time Cora, Boston's first-year manager, was ejected this season. He was also tossed Aug. 3 against the Yankees. As a bench coach last season for the Astros, Cora had his only other career ejection. He was never ejected during his playing days.
Cora is the first manager to be ejected in the postseason since Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was tossed from Games 1 and 4 of last year's NLCS.