Way back in the 1999 postseason, the Red Sox became the second team to overcome a 2–0 Division Series deficit, winning three straight games to come from behind and knock off the Indians. Seventeen years later, they’ll have to do exactly that again if they’re to continue playing baseball this season. Cleveland jumped ahead early and didn’t look back, winning Game 2 by a score of 6–0. The Indians are now on the cusp of their first trip to the ALCS since 2007.
Corey Kluber gives the Indians just the outing they needed
First it was Danny Salazar. Then it was Carlos Carrasco. The Indians were already looking at going into the postseason without two of their top three starters when Kluber left his start on Sept. 26 with a groin issue. Friday marked his first start since that shortened outing against the Tigers, and while it appeared to be nothing more than a false alarm, the team couldn’t be completely sure until seeing Kluber in game action. With that in mind, Kluber couldn’t have scripted the first play of the game any better.
Dustin Pedroia led off the first for the Red Sox by hitting a tapper back to the mound, forcing Kluber to react quickly and field his position. He did so with aplomb, and that seemed an omen for the rest of the game. Kluber quickly erased a first-inning single by Brock Holt with a double-play grounder off the bat of Mookie Betts. He didn’t surrender another hit until the fifth when Xander Bogaerts legged out an infield single on a grounder into the hole between shortstop and third base. By that time, the Indians had a comfortable 5–0 lead, made all the more secure by having their ace on the mound.
Kluber ended up going seven innings, allowing just three hits while striking out seven. He walked three batters and hit another, and wasn’t in any trouble until the Red Sox put the first two batters on in the eighth inning. He gave way to Dan Otero, who cleaned up his small mess in that frame, all but eliminating any doubt that the Indians would end up taking the first two games.
Kluber’s performance was all the more important after Terry Francona used Andrew Miller and Cody Allen for 40 pitches apiece in Game 1. Both pitchers insisted they would be ready if called upon Friday, but it wasn’t a secret that Francona wanted to avoid using his two best relievers if he could. Kluber made that a certainty.
David Price’s playoff woes continue
Narratives are often lazy, but they exist for a reason. The narrative surrounding Price on Friday was that he struggles in the postseason. Entering Game 2 in Cleveland, Price had 14 career postseason appearances, including eight starts, as a member of the Rays, Tigers and Blue Jays. He went 2–7 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.17 WHIP across 63 1/3 innings in those 14 appearances. He was particularly bad in the Division Series, posting a 5.48 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and six of those seven losses. The narrative isn’t going away any time soon.
Price set down the Indians in order in the first inning, and then got Mike Napoli to ground out to short to lead off the second. The next four players reached base, punctuated by a three-run homer by Lonnie Chisenhall, a line drive that just barely cleared the wall in right field. John Farrell lifted Price in the fourth inning after he gave up an infield single to Brandon Guyer and walked Roberto Perez. Jason Kipnis drove in a run with a single later in the inning, closing the book on Price.
All told, Price surrendered five runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking two. To be fair, he was done in by some soft contact, particularly in the second inning, when an infield single by Jose Ramirez and blooper by Brandon Guyer came immediately in front of Chisenhall’s homer. That doesn’t excuse Price’s lack of command in the zone, most notably on Cleveland’s big blow early in the game.
Price is now 2–8 with a 5.54 ERA. If he gets another chance to pitch this postseason, the narrative will be waiting for him.
The mighty Boston bats didn’t make the trip to Cleveland
The Red Sox entered the postseason as the betting line favorite to win the American League on the strength of their offense. They lead the majors in runs, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, wOBA, and weighted runs created plus. In other words, pick any metric, old school or new school, and the Red Sox were best at it. That offense abandoned them in the first two games of this series.
David Ortiz is 1 for 8 in the series thus far. Mookie Betts is 1 for 6, Dustin Pedroia is 1 for 8, and Xander Bogaerts, who faltered in the second half, is 1 for 8. Hanley Ramirez had two hits and an RBI in Game 1, but he went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts on Friday night. Brock Holt was the only Boston player with at least one hit in both games.
The series is far from over with the scene shifting to Boston for Game 3 on Sunday. If the Red Sox are going to get back in the series, though, the offense is going to have to wake up at Fenway Park.