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FORT MYERS , Fla. (AP) — Alex Cora guided the Boston Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 wins and a World Series victory last season, and then he reported to his second spring training as a major league manager as if nothing had changed.Still just 43, Cora has a chance to be the first Red Sox manager to win back-to-back championships in more than 100 years.And he’s approaching it with the same, unruffled demeanor as when he was a rookie.“I think that’s why we were so consistent last year,” utilityman Brock Holt said this week as the team made the transition from workouts to the exhibition season.“If we won, we came in here, turned the music on, showered, went home. If we lost, we didn’t turn the music on,” Holt said. “That’s what helped us to be so consistent. It wasn’t any different; there was no panic. He stayed with his plan.”A native of Puerto Rico who is the first minority manager in franchise history and one of the youngest ever to run the Red Sox dugout, Cora didn’t need much time to figure things out in Boston. After losing their opener, they won nine straight games and 17 of the next 18.They finished the regular season 108-54 — the best record in franchise history, and eight games ahead of the rival Yankees. They never lost more than three in a row, and their worst stretch of six losses in eight games came in August after they were already 50 games above .500 with a double-digit lead in the division.Through it all, Cora never changed.“Over the course of 162 games Bryce Harper Jersey , things aren’t always going to go well,” outfielder Andrew Benintendi said. “He stayed even-keeled.”But never distant.While some managers looked at the clubhouse as the players’ domain, Cora will be out among them, joking around or just checking in. It doesn’t hurt that he is only eight years older than first baseman Steve Pearce, and was teammates with second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the Boston team that won it all in 2007.Holt called Cora “one of the smartest baseball people” he’s met, and noted that the manager’s ability to speak both Spanish and English also helps him relate to many of the team’s Hispanic players.“He’s one of the best communicators I’ve ever been around in the game,” Holt said. “As players, we always know what to expect, what we need to do. You see him in here, joking around with guys. He talks to everyone. I enjoy being around someone who enjoys being around us.”The season-long effort to communicate paid off after Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees, when Holt became the first player in major league history to hit for the cycle in a postseason game.Cora texted him that night to say he would be benched for Game 4 in favor of Ian Kinsler.“I expected it before it even happened,” Holt said. “I didn’t think anything about it. We all knew what’s happening, and what we were trying to do.”Kinsler doubled in the game’s first run and the Red Sox advanced to the AL Championship Series.And Holt was back in the lineup for Game 1 against the Houston Astros. Boston lost that one before winning the next six games, taking a 2-0 lead in the World Series before the Dodgers slowed them down with an 18-inning victory in Game 3. The Red Sox finished Los Angeles off in five games.Cora is the fifth Red Sox manager to win it all in his first season in Boston, but the first ever to win as a managerial rookie. His .667 winning percentage is also the best in franchise history.Asked this week if there was anything he learned last year that he would do differently in his second season, Cora noted that it was coach Ramon Vazquez’s wife’s birthday Stephen Strasburg Jersey , and that was an unexpected setback for the staff in 2018.“He forgot about it last year,” Cora said with a laugh. “So we made a point to FaceTime her. She’s in California, and we have a cake and balloons and everything. So we’re making adjustments on the fly.“We made sure he didn’t forget this year,” Cora said. “Yeah, I mean, teamwork.” Omar Rawlings/Getty ImagesAs the ALCS and NLCS wind down, it's hard not to imagine what the 2018 World Series might look like when it begins Tuesday night.As of right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are on track to advance to the Fall Classic, but the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros could come from behind to win their respective series.With both series reaching their conclusions, the World Series pitching rotation for each team is starting to look clearer.Among the potential World Series pitching matchups are a showdown of aces, a clash of managerial styles and a whole other group of possibilities that would have baseball fans salivating in anticipation. 2018 World Series ScheduleGame 1:Tuesday, October 23 (Time TBD, Fox)Game 2:Wednesday, October 24 (Time TBD, Fox)Game 3:Friday, October 26 (Time TBD , Fox)Game 4:Saturday, October 27 (Time TBD, Fox)Game 5:Sunday, October 28 (Time TBD, Fox)Game 6:Tuesday, October 30 (Time TBD, Fox)Game 7:Wednesday, October 31 (Time TBD, Fox) Potential Pitching MatchupsChris Sale vs. Clayton KershawIf the Dodgers return to the World Series, Clayton Kershaw would be their ideal Game 1 starter.Kershaw just threw in Game 5 of the NLCS, so if he makes an appearance in Game 6 or 7 it would have to be a brief one with the World Series opener in the back of everyone's minds.The Los Angeles left-hander has given up five earned runs over 18 innings in the 2018 postseason and he's struck out 14 batters in starts against Atlanta and Milwaukee.Last year in the World Series, Kershaw made three appearances, two of which were starts in Games 1 and 5.Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesGiven the flexibility of the Dodgers' rotation, Kershaw could be set for a duel of baseball's top left-handers later in a series against the Boston Red Sox.Chris Sale is expected to start Game 6 if the Red Sox have to go back to Boston to finish off the ALCS, which means he wouldn't be ready to go for Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.A more likely scenario for a Sale-Kershaw showdown would feature them going head-to-head in Game 5, with Sale throwing on one less day of rest.A Game 2 start in the World Series would differ from what Sale is used to Anthony Rendon Jersey , as he took the mound for Game 1 of the three playoff series he's participated in as a member of the Red Sox.Since giving up seven earned runs in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS against Houston, Sale's conceded six earned runs in 15 postseason innings.The hype alone for the clash between Sale and Kershaw would be massiveand, based off their recent playoff performances, the southpaw showdown would deliver in quality.Justin Verlander vs. Milwaukee's BullpenThe emergence of Milwaukee's pitching strategy is one of the most intriguing stories of the 2018 postseason.Manager Craig Counsell has relied on his bullpen for the majority of the NLCS, and he caught headlines in Game 5when he used Wade Miley to pitch against one batter before calling on his relievers to do the rest of the work on the mound.Since Counsell isn't expected to change his approach if the Brewers advance to the World Series, it will bring about a clash of styles against either the Astros or Red Sox.The ultimate strategical difference would come against the Astros and Justin Verlander, who hasn't given up more than three earned runs in his last 12 postseason starts.Tim Bradbury/Getty ImagesVerlander should add to that streak in Game 5 of the ALCS, as he attempts to keep Houston alive in its attempt to get back to the World Series.If Verlander takes on the Brewers, he would most likely oppose three or four different pitchers, beginning with whichever hurler Counsell relies on to start the game.It's an intriguing matchup that pits conventional pitching wisdom against a new idea that's gaining traction, and it would be the talk of the national audience, especially among those who haven't paid close attention to the new bullpen-first approaches used across baseball.Follow Joe on Twitter, JTansey90.Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.

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