Stay humble. Stay hungry.

That’s what Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora told his team after it swept the Angels last week. The Red Sox didn’t just win three games in Anaheim, they demolished the Angels – outscoring them 27-3.

As it turns out, the Red Sox didn’t need to hear a speech about staying humble. The game took care of that. Just two days after they pummeled the Angels into submission they were no-hit by Oakland’s Sean Manaea. It was the first time in 25 years that the Sox had been no-hit. A day later they managed just one run in a 4-1 loss to the Athletics. Suddenly, the Sox had lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

You might say they were humbled.

Cora has tried to instill hunger in his offense by keeping the entire roster involved. Ten Red Sox players have hit home runs this season. Last we checked only nine can start on a given night. Cora isn’t afraid to give players days off – even when his best players are red hot. Mitch Moreland hit a grand slam in Friday night’s win over Oakland, and was not in the lineup on Saturday. Mookie Betts has been one of the hottest hitters in the game but was on the sideline for Sunday’s finale. He and Hanley Ramirez never got to the plate. For better or worse, Cora is sticking to his plan.

Last year, Cora was the bench coach of the World Series-winning team in Houston. Astros Manager A.J. Hinch was a firm believer that everyone needed to get regular time off. Cora felt the rotation of players provided a two-fold benefit to the team. First, the starters stayed rested and ready for late-season (and playoff) games. Second, reserve players managed to keep their timing and were able to better contribute to the success of the team.

It can be difficult for superstars to buy into a plan like that. Baseball’s best players want to impact the game every night. Winning it all with the Astros gave Cora the confidence that his plan works.

“It was hard (for AL MVP Jose Altuve of the Astros) to accept the off days,” Cora told reporters, “but with time he understood there’s a lot of effort (in playing every day). It’s actually good (to get a day off) when you’re hot.”

This goes against conventional wisdom. For decades, managers have tried to keep the hot bat in the lineup. Why take a guy out when he’s going well?

“You’re going to be hot in two days,” Cora told reporters. “It’s not like because you don’t play today all of a sudden you’re going to lose it.”

Cora likes to point out that the hotter you are, the tougher the toll is on your body. You’re on base more. You’re working harder. Chances are you’re getting more beat up. Looking at it that way, it’s the perfect time to get a rest.

Time will tell if it works. With a 17-4 start, it’s hard to criticize anything this team has done under Cora. After two straight first-place seasons that resulted in first-round playoff losses the Red Sox brought Cora in to win in October. It would stand to reason that keeping players rested in the regular season would put this team in a better position to win come playoff time.

Of course, the Sox didn’t get a hit with Moreland on the bench Saturday. And they were awfully quiet at the plate Sunday with Betts and Ramirez out.

That’s not going to change Cora’s mind. His strategy is based with a long-range plan. He’s managing to win games in early April, but is far more interested in winning games in late October.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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