Evidence bears out Cora's trust in Price for G2

Manager points to lefty's season-long struggles vs. NY, consistent success vs. Astros

October 11th, 2018

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Alex Cora could have looked at 's history in the postseason as a starter (0-9, 6.03 ERA) and turned in another direction for Sunday's Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros at Fenway Park.
After all, both and were magnificent in their AL Division Series starts against the Yankees and would have been rested enough by Sunday.
But all year, Cora has maintained sound perspective on all decisions, to the point that the Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games during the regular season and took out the Yankees in four games to open the playoffs.
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Again, Cora is keeping a level head amid all the talk-show outrage and going with Price in the spot where he thinks it makes the most sense. And after every decision Cora made for the ALDS against the Yankees seemed to turn to gold, perhaps this is no time to doubt him.
"I trust the guy," Cora said on Thursday, two days before the Red Sox will send ace Chris Sale to the mound in Game 1.
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It is hardly blind trust.
First of all, these aren't the Yankees anymore. Price consistently had fits with them all season.
The Astros are a different story. Price has traditionally given them fits.
Since joining the Red Sox in 2016, Price is 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA in eight appearances (four starts) against the Astros, including two dominant relief performances in last year's playoffs when Cora was the bench coach for Houston. Over those eight appearances, Price has 11.34 strikeouts per nine innings and the Astros have a .599 OPS against him.
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In other words, as consistently bad as Price has been against the Yankees, that's how consistently he has sparkled against the Astros.

"I saw him last year, I think it was Father's Day, he pitched against Houston in Houston and he pitched well," said Cora. "I saw him in the playoffs against the Astros. He pitched well. This year, he pitched in Houston that Saturday [June 2], he pitched well against them. He pitched here against the Astros [on Sept. 7] and pitched well again, so I know how good he is. I know he's pitched well against them."
Also, the narrative that Price has never been able to perform in the postseason as a starter is not entirely inaccurate. Of the 10 postseason starts Price has made in the playoffs, four were quality starts. But until Price erases that zero from the win column, you will continue to hear the narrative that he simply can't perform in October as a starter.

There are some examples of starts in October when the moment wasn't too big for the lefty. On Oct. 12, 2010, Price held the Rangers to three runs over six innings (a quality start) in Game 5 of the ALDS, but he took a 5-1 loss with the Rays. Nearly a year later (Oct. 3, 2011), Price was again effective enough in an ALDS loss against the Rangers, holding them to three runs over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-3 defeat.
In fact, there is even one postseason start Price was dominant. That was Oct. 5, 2014, for the Tigers, when he held the Orioles to two runs over eight innings in Game 3 of the ALDS, but lost, 2-1.

He also had a quality start against the eventual World Series champion Royals in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS, holding them to three runs while striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings. Price took a no-decision, and his Blue Jays lost, 4-3, in an elimination game.
There is no defense for the two postseason starts Price has made in a Boston uniform. They've both been bad. He was tagged for six hits and five runs in just 3 1/3 innings against the Indians in Game 2 of the 2016 ALDS, and the Red Sox were swept in three games. And most recently was Game 2 of this year's ALDS, when the Yankees roughed him up for two homers and three runs over 1 2/3 innings.

The way Cora looks at it, Price has much more of a Yankees problem than a postseason problem. The former can't be fixed until next year. The latter could be fixed as early as Sunday.
"I mean, the whole season he kind of struggled against the Yankees. It just seems like as far as game-planning or matching up with them, it didn't work this year," Cora said. "That's the way I see it. Like, Rick against Toronto, it wasn't good. Sometimes you struggle in the season against a team. You don't match up well or they just plan for you and they perform against that pitcher.
"I saw what happened last year against the Astros. He was actually the best pitcher in that series last year. I know he was coming out of the bullpen, but what he did was good to see. I think he's going to make some adjustments and he'll be fine."

A big problem for Price in his last three starts -- during which he's 1-2 with a 7.50 ERA -- is that he's gotten back to a bad habit of not having enough separation in velocity between the different pitches in his repertoire, and he has also missed his spots within the zone.
Price made that adjustment once before this season and dominated for two months.
"It's just a matter of going to that fastball to different spots, and when he's doing that, he's at his best," said Cora. "I don't know if it was command or overthrowing or mechanics, but it seems we were attacking the same area over and over again. When we do that to big league hitters, they're going to take advantage of it. Velocity was fine. Movement wasn't there.
"He just needs to get back to be that guy who pitched in the middle of the season. It wasn't about the different stuff. It was about location and attacking guys in different ways. We'll see how it goes."