For the second consecutive afternoon, the Astros beat the Red Sox 8–2. Houston’s ALDS lead is now a commanding 2–0.
1. The Astros will punish you ... and won't strike out
This season Houston became the third team in the last 100 years—after the 1948 Yankees and ’95 Indians—to lead their league in slugging and finish last in strikeouts. It’s not easy to hit that balance of controlled free-swinging. This is probably the ideal formula for offensive success in the current run environment, in which the ball is likely juiced but every team trots out a seemingly endless parade of flamethrowing relievers.
Today was just the latest example of how the Astros can deplete an opponent’s pitching staff: They went through six Red Sox relievers after knocking lefty Drew Pomeranz out with no outs in the third, and they accumulated as many extra base hits (five) as strikeouts. And there seems to be no way around the lineup: Boston twice intentionally walked red-hot second baseman and probably AL MVP José Altuve, who went 2-for-3; the second time, Carlos Correa—who would himself probably have been an MVP candidate if not for a torn thumb ligament that cost him six weeks—doubled in two runs.
2. David Price (slightly) rehabilitated his postseason reputation
Lefty David Price’s Red Sox tenure has been rocky, to say the least. From his public feud with broadcaster and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to his 3.84 Boston ERA, the seven-year deal he signed before the 2016 season looks on many days like a miscalculation on both sides. Whether it’s fair or not, Price has developed a reputation that he can’t be depended upon in the postseason—he was a stud with the Rays as a 22-year-old during their Cinderella run to the 2008 World Series but has scuffled since—and that narrative has gotten play since he arrived in Boston.
He didn’t help himself when he gave up five runs to the Indians in 3 1/3 innings in last year’s ALDS sweep. Then he missed six weeks down the stretch with elbow discomfort, forcing Boston to use him as out of the bullpen to protect his arm. This arrangement has quietly been wonderful: He did not allow a run in 8 2/3 relief innings in September, and today he went 2 2/3 shutout. That’s not to say Price should be a reliever fulltime—he’s still immensely more valuable as a starter—but maybe if fans take note of his strong showing, that relationship can begin to heal.
3. It's hard to see the Red Sox coming back in this one
The Red Sox finished eight games behind the Astros in the regular season. It’s hard to believe, watching this series, that it was even that close. Houston appears to be the clearly stronger team in all facets. Its pitching staff has thus far allowed a 2.00 ERA to Boston’s 8.00; its lineup is outhitting the Red Sox’ .343 to 227. It’s not over—the series returns to Boston tomorrow, where the Red Sox went 48–33 this season. But Boston has an uphill climb ahead of it: Even if it gets through whatever combination of Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers Jr. and the bullpen the Astros piece together for Game 3 on Sunday, Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel—who just held them to three runs over 11 2/3 innings—likely await again in Games 4 and 5.