Is Sale a lazy answer to this question? Maybe. Is David Price the more intriguing storyline? Probably. The reality is that Sale, who appeared to be a lock for the AL Cy Young Award midway through the season, is battling uncharacteristic struggles as he enters his first career playoff start. Since August 19, he's compiled a pedestrian 4.30 ERA and .264 opponents' batting average over his final eight starts of the season. He surrendered four or more runs in four of those eight starts after allowing four or more runs just four times over his previous 24 outings. He's had a bit of bad luck in the process (his batting average in balls in play is an unusually high .356), but it's clear that he's battling ineffectiveness in a way he hasn't over the course of his career.
If the Red Sox want to make a run to the World Series, they can ill-afford having to go to a questionable bullpen early in one of Sale's starts. They need him to go at least six innings and to not fall behind early. That will be a difficult task against a monstrous Houston offense.