Tomase: Did E-Rod's taunt of Correa wake up the best offense in baseball? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Ever since Eduardo Rodriguez checked his watch, the Red Sox have been on borrowed time.
Simplistic, reductive, built upon a dubious foundation of causality ... and yet a perfectly symbolic turning point in an American League Championship Series that's slipping through their fingers only 48 hours after they seemingly had it by the throat.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
You know what they say about sleeping dogs/giants/dragons. Let them lie. Do not disturb. Tread lightly, and maybe you'll never see their fangs.
Rodriguez, unfortunately, couldn't leave well enough alone in a Game 3 blowout. Manager Alex Cora described it as the team's most perfect game of the season, but it had one moment he hated, because he knew what it could mean. Consider those fears realized.
In Wednesday's Game 5, the Astros blasted the Red Sox for the second straight night en route to a 9-1 victory. Coming on the heels of Tuesday's 9-2 win, they now lead the series 3-2 and can close it out at home this weekend.
What does that have to do with E-Rod? He completed a stellar Game 3 performance by inducing shortstop Carlos Correa to ground out to end the sixth of a 12-3 blowout. As he left the mound, he checked his watch, a reference to Correa's "My time" celebration that has become a postseason staple at the urging of teammates. They believe his time is the playoffs, and he delivered game-changing hits against the White Sox and Red Sox to prove it.
What could've been a little harmless flexing by Rodriguez did not sit well with Cora, who lost his mind in the dugout. "No! No! Don't do that!" he screamed. Alas, it was too late, because the Astros most definitely noticed, and they haven't stopped scoring since.
Houston hitting coach Alex Cintron describes Cora as "my best friend," so he possesses insight into why the Red Sox manager objected to E-Rod's uncharacteristically braggadocious display.
"I think Alex is a humble guy," Cintron told NBC Sports Boston. "They've been humble this year. He knows how to manage his team, manage his players. Seeing E-Rod doing that is kind of like, 'Don't wake these guys up. Don't give them a reason to come get us.'"
Whether or not Houston actually needed a boost, E-Rod provided it. Of course, the Astros are in their fifth straight ALCS for a reason, and it's not because they lack mental toughness. The most hated team in baseball has used the constant refrain of "CHEATERS!" as fuel, most recently when they blasted the White Sox after reliever Ryan Tepera questioned their tactics in the ALDS.
Still, the Astros aren't about to let even a good-natured or well-earned swipe go unnoticed. Correa, for his part, said he loved it. Cintron said the Astros didn't care at all, but they certainly made note.
"We were kind of like, 'Oh, hey, look -- he did that,'" he said. "We saw it, but it's kind of fun. We're a good team. We don't need that."
Regardless, the Red Sox kicked that sleeping dog, and now they're hoping the bite wounds didn't puncture an artery. Even after the lackluster offensive showing in Games 1-3, Cintron knew his team would hit. One of baseball's best offenses wouldn't hibernate all ALCS, not with the batting champ batting seventh.
"I wasn't concerned at all," he said. "We beat one of the hardest throwing teams in the Chicago White Sox. Everyone throws over 95 mph in the bullpen in Chicago. We beat them and we scored some runs. Boston is one of the best pitching teams in the league, but we knew we were going to have a good offensive series. It was a matter of time, and how the pitching would hold up Boston's offense. The last two games we've been able to hold them down offensively and that gives us a chance to score runs.
"We had no doubt we were going to have a good series offensively. We were pretty confident coming here."
A little extra oomph never hurts, either, and now Rodriguez and Co. are left to ponder one question: Is their time up?