• A night after the Red Sox scratched out a 5-4 win, the Yankees clobbered David Price and Boston's bullpen to cruise to a Game 2 win. Now the series shifts to New York for Game 3 and 4.
By Jon Tayler
October 06, 2018

BOSTON — The ALDS is even at a game apiece after the Yankees rocked David Price and the Red Sox in a 6–2 victory at Fenway Park. It was another rough playoff start for Price, who recorded only five outs, while New York’s battering ram of a lineup pounded three homers to support a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka. Here are three thoughts on the Yankees’ Game 2 win.

The Price Remains Wrong

Postseason narratives are dull and frequently ghoulish things, but damned if David Price can escape his. The author of a 5.03 October ERA coming into Game 2, the veteran southpaw only saw that number climb after a miserable, abbreviated 1 2/3-inning outing. Against those five outs, he gave up three runs on three hits, including two demolished solo home runs from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. The former blasted a two-strike fastball into the Green Monster seats with one out in the first for a quick 1–0 lead; the latter greeted Price in the second by slamming a cutter to the same place for a 2–0 advantage.

Price almost righted himself from there, getting two quick ground-ball outs, but two straight walks to Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner—starting in place of the injured Aaron Hicks—got erratic righty Joe Kelly warming in the bullpen. The game would soon be his, as Andrew McCutchen ripped a fastball off the Monster to drive in Torres and end Price’s night. He exited with his team trailing 3–0, having thrown only 42 pitches, to a resounding shower of boos from the Fenway Park fans.

“It’s just another game,” Price said Friday when asked whether his playoff struggles have put extra pressure on him. “Don’t treat it any differently than any other game.” But after yet another postseason disaster, it’s clear these games are something different for him—and something truly troublesome for manager Alex Cora. If Boston advances, can he trust Price to start again? Perhaps he can become the answer for a thin bullpen, particularly after excelling in a relief role down the stretch and in October last year. Maybe that’s where Price can finally shed the monkey that’s been clawing at his back.

Tanaka Time

Quietly, the Yankees’ best starter in last year’s postseason wasn’t young ace Luis Severino or battle-tested veteran CC Sabathia, but the enigmatic Masahiro Tanaka. Owner of a wipeout split-finger fastball, a propensity for allowing home runs, and a right elbow ligament that may or may not be fully functional, Tanaka was nails in three starts across the Division Series against Cleveland and the ALCS against Houston, allowing just two runs and three walks in 20 innings while striking out 18.

His first turn of this year’s playoffs, though, presented him with a problem he hadn’t been able to solve all season: Stop the Red Sox. Across four starts and 19 innings, Boston had battered him for 16 runs—an ugly 7.58 ERA—and six homers. And if figuring out the league’s best offense weren’t enough of an ask, Tanaka also ideally had to give the Yankees more length than Game 1 starter J.A. Happ, who couldn’t make it out of the third inning on Friday night.

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Mission accomplished on both counts. Over five excellent frames, Tanaka held the Red Sox to one run on three hits and a walk. That did include his customary homer, which came off the bat of Xander Bogaerts in the fourth, but otherwise, Boston never got anything going. Bogaerts was the only batter to reach second base, and Tanaka retired the leadoff hitter in every inning.

Aside from the homer, Tanaka scattered a pair of singles—one in the first to J.D. Martinez, the other in the third to Jackie Bradley Jr.—and a walk to Eduardo Nuñez in the fourth. Against that, he punched out four, all swinging, working his slider and splitter to great effect: The latter produced eight swinging strikes. At 78 pitches through five, Tanaka likely could have gone longer, but given his awful numbers versus a lineup a third time (a .914 OPS against) and the presence of a fantastic bullpen, manager Aaron Boone chose not to push him.

Tanaka’s strong effort didn’t just make Boone’s life easier in terms of bullpen management, though. It also likely cemented him the role of Game 5 starter, should the series go that far, back in Boston, given Happ’s terrible outing in the opener. Based on the Japanese righty’s sterling work so far in the toughest of months, that should fill both Boone and Yankees fans with plenty of comfort if they reach that do-or-die game.

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Red Sox In Trouble?

Both teams came out of Fenway with a win, but it’s the Yankees who leave Boston with the momentum. They nearly stole Game 1, in the process exposing the Red Sox’ shallow bullpen, then thoroughly dominated Game 2. Their offense looks lively and their bullpen has been excellent, and they now hold home-field advantage over the next two, plus the chance to clinch in the Bronx.

Boston, meanwhile, is listing. Game 1 was an unnecessary nail-biter; Game 2 was a dud from the start. The lineup has produced just two runs since the third inning of the opener, and the bottom four in the starting nine—Nuñez, Ian Kinsler, Sandy Leon, and Bradley—have combined to go 3-for-25. Nuñez has been a mess on defense. And while the bullpen was better on Saturday despite having to get twice as many outs, demoted starter Eduardo Rodriguez punted away any chance of a comeback in a disastrous seventh inning, letting a 3–1 lead stretch to 6–1 on Sanchez’s second homer of the night—a 479-foot bomb to left.

Now the task for Cora and the Red Sox is to re-take control of the series in front of what will surely be a raucous crowd at Yankee Stadium. But the starting pitching is suspect. Game 3 starter Rick Porcello was pressed into emergency relief in Game 1, which could affect how long he goes on Monday night. Game 4 starter Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, can’t be counted on to go deep.

No one expected this rivalry renewal to be quick or drama-free, but after the first two, the Yankees look to be the better team and to have the edge.