LONG BALL

With an aw­ful post-sea­son track record, Red Sox hope David Price will fi­nally get it right ... Astros bullpen will be tough to score against ... Cold weather could be a fac­tor

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS -

BOS­TON — By his own es­ti­ma­tion, David Price has been try­ing to an­swer the ques­tion for eight years now and yes, the lack of an ac­cept­able an­swer is grow­ing weary.

Left un­said is that the so­lu­tion lies in how he per­forms from one place — some sixty feet and six inches from home plate at Fen­way Park.

In­clud­ing a blowout loss to the New York Yan­kees in this year’s ALDS (and three with the Blue Jays in 2015) Price is a well doc­u­mented 0-9 in 10 play­off starts with a rather in­flated ERA, num­bers com­pletely out of whack the rest of his im­pres­sive body of work.

In his ca­reer with the Red Sox, by com­par­i­son, Price is 39-19 own­ing a bet­ter than ser­vice­able 3.74 ERA. He’s a re­li­able reg­u­lar-sea­son starter who just can’t fol­low it up in Oc­to­ber.

So as tire­some as it has be­come, with the stakes high in Game 2 of the

World Se­ries, Price once again was asked on Satur­day: What gives?

“I don’t re­ally have an an­swer,” Price said, po­litely and with just the hint of a sigh. “I feel like

I’ve given some an­swers the past eight years.

“(I) haven’t been suc­cess­ful the way that I know I can be and will be. I look for­ward to get­ting out there (on Sun­day.)”

Safe to say that not all among the tough crowd known as Red Sox faith­ful feel the same way about Price get­ting the ball. Af­ter al­low­ing two homers and just get­ting five outs in Game 2 vs. the Yan­kees, the Nashville na­tive was given the hook and ex­ited to a cho­rus of boos.

The per­for­mance mar­ried with Price’s track record was so tawdry that many among the Red Sox faith­ful fig­ured he wouldn’t see the mound as a starter again this se­ries.

First-year Bos­ton man­ager Alex Cora had other ideas, how­ever, and didn’t hes­i­tate to tell Price he’d be sec­ond in his ro­ta­tion vs. the World Se­ries champs.

There’s any num­ber of ways to eval­u­ate the call, start­ing with the fact that Cora has few op­tions but fol­lowed up by the fact that Price has ac­tu­ally pitched fairly well against the Astros. Cora also said that they’ve worked on a few things in the in­terim to help Price bet­ter at­tack hit­ters.

If the Bos­ton fans — who haven’t been shy to get on his case at var­i­ous points in his ten­ure here — were rest­less about the call, Price said he an­tic­i­pated noth­ing less.

“I did ex­pect to make more starts for us in this year’s play­offs,” Price said. “But Alex told me be­fore we even got off the field that night (of the Yan­kees loss.) So for him to tell me be­fore we even took our jerseys off to put on our post­sea­son shirts that we get when we win, that was spe­cial.”

It’s not a huge stretch to sug­gest that the Red Sox will have trou­ble up­end­ing the World Se­ries champs with­out some­thing from Price. The front end of the Astros ro­ta­tion — Game 1 starter Justin Ver­lan­der and Ger­rit Cole in Game 2 — is just two damn tough.

His Red Sox team­mates have seen enough of Price to be­lieve the reg­u­lar sea­son to play­offs dis­par­ity is some­thing that must break even­tu­ally. Of course to have a shot against the Astros, they pretty much need it.

“We still have the con­fi­dence in him,” Bos­ton’s Game 1 starter, Chris Sale, said. “We know who he is. He’s been one of the best left-handed pitch­ers in this game for 10 years.

(The ALDS) is be­hind us. We won that se­ries. So that doesn’t mat­ter. We’re fac­ing the Hous­ton Astros now.

“He’s pitched well against the Astros the last cou­ple of years so I like where we’re at.”

THAT’S NO BULL

There’s a rea­son the

Astros have been dom­i­nant late in post-sea­son games, outscor­ing op­po­nents 13-0 in the sev­enth in­ning and be­yond. Ob­vi­ously of­fence drives the flash end of that stat, but man­ager A.J. Hinch is adamant that he’s got as good a bullpen as there is in base­ball.

Ryan Pressly has been a per­fect eighth in­ning setup man for former Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna giv­ing Hinch plenty of power at his dis­posal.

As much as this se­ries will be dom­i­nated by mar­quee start­ing matchups, it could be the bullpen that de­cides it given the ques­tion­able depth in the Red Sox ver­si­ion.

“We don’t care when we pitch guys or what in­ning it is or try­ing to la­bel guys what they are,” Hinch said. “We want to have a col­lec­tion of re­liev­ers that can come in at any time. There’s dif­fer­ent an­gles and dif­fer­ent strengths. It’s the best bullpen I’ve ever been around.”

The stats cer­tainly back up that ver­sa­til­ity. The 2018 Astros are one of just seven teams in his­tory with at least three pitch­ers with 12 saves or more — Hec­tor Ron­don (15) and Osuna and Ken Giles with a dozen each. The lat­ter two, of course, switched teams in late July in a swap be­tween the Astros and Jays.

OC­TO­BER BASE­BALL

With Bos­ton the only re­main­ing cold-weather venue re­main­ing among the fi­nal four does it give the Red Sox an edge?

Even though first pitch tem­per­a­ture was 9C on Satur­day Cora doesn’t fig­ure his team will ben­e­fit.

“These guys, they’ve got a lot of stuff now,” Cora said. “You know like back in the day it was a pair of sleeves and that was it. They’ve got the cage in­side. They’ve got ways to keep warm.

“There’s prob­a­bly go­ing to be a few ski masks out there. I’ve got my money on (Astros first base­man Yuli Gur­riel) wear­ing a ski mask tonight. He doesn’t like the cold weather.”

TIM BRAD­BURY/GETTY IM­AGES

Astros’ Alex Breg­man is caught steal­ing by Red Sox sec­ond base­man Xan­der Bo­gaerts dur­ing the third in­ning in Game 1 of the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries at Fen­way Park in Bos­ton last night.

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