Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 5, 2018 – Source: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images North America)
After one game, the Boston Red Sox find themselves trailing 1-0 in the 2018 ALCS. Despite it being Sale Day, the Red Sox played one of the sloppiest games of the season last night. Now, in order to avoid a 2-0 deficit heading into Houston, David Price will need to outduel Gerrit Cole. Regardless of how well Price pitches, the entire unit must recover from their subpar Game One play to have any hope of winning the ALCS Game Two.
Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros: ALCS Game Two Preview
First Pitch: 7:09 PM
Your Starting Ace: David Price
Here we go again. David Price, he of the career 5.28 postseason ERA, takes the mound to basically decide the fate of the 2018 Red Sox. Should Price struggle again, the Red Sox will head into Houston with a 0-2 deficit. No team in history has won the ALCS after dropping the first two games of a series at home.
There are reasons for optimism if you choose to look for them. Price faced the Astros twice this year, tossing 12.1 innings to the tune of a 3.65 ERA and a 2.19 FIP. This continues a trend where Price has dominated against non-Yankee playoff teams this season. In 20.1 innings, Price allowed a 2.21 ERA and a 2.03 FIP against non-Yankee teams which made the playoffs.
Hopefully, Prices’ ALDS struggles were due to facing the Yankees, and not the atmosphere in which he played. The Red Sox lefty has had postseason success as a starter before even though he never got a win. Price has started 11 playoff/elimination games and tossed quality starts in five of them. While this isn’t a great ratio by any means, it shows that he is capable of putting up a good performance in the playoffs.
Know Your Enemy: Gerrit Cole
Facing off against Price will be 28-year old righty Gerrit Cole. Cole would be the ace on most rosters around the league and had one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the American League. On the season, Cole pitched 200.1 innings, recording a 2.88 ERA and a 2.70 FIP. To say the Red Sox are up for a challenge in Game Two is a drastic understatement.
For what it’s worth, the Red Sox have had some success against Cole this season. Cole started two games against the Red Sox, pitching 13 combined innings to the tune of a 3.46 ERA and a 4.55 FIP. Obviously, this is a small sample size, but it’s an encouraging note that the Red Sox could put up some offense against one of the game’s best.
Player(s) to Watch: Eduardo Nunez/Rafael Devers
The Boston Red Sox have not released their lineup as of this posting. However, one of the biggest decisions to watch will be to see what the Red Sox do with the third base position. Eduardo Nunez has been the primary starter in the postseason, with Rafael Devers only starting one game thus far.
Devers has a better bat than Nunez and, as a lefty, is a smarter start against the right-handed Cole. That said, Nunez is supposedly a defensive upgrade. While he doesn’t have the range or arm of Devers, Nunez is supposedly better at making the routine plays.
While Devers is anything but a Gold Glover at this stage of his career, Nunez has not provided any sort of defensive security. While Devers probably doesn’t make the game-clinching Game Four play Nunez did, that’s just one play. Nunez made a crucial error in Game One and sailed several routine throws against the Yankees in the ALDS.
At this point, Nunez’ marginally better defense doesn’t cancel out his significantly worse offense. Rafael Devers needs to start and Nunez needs to come off the bench.
The Boston Red Sox should be able to muster some more life than last time, but this still won’t be an easy matchup. If David Price can toss six solid innings, then the Red Sox should be in good shape.
However, asking for six solid innings might be asking too much. Nobody knows which version of David Price will come out to play in the postseason. There’s a lot of inherent risk, and let’s not forget that the Astros are really, really good. Quite frankly, it looks as though the Red Sox will be facing a big deficit heading into Houston.
Final Prediction: Red Sox 3, Astros 6