Of the two starting pitchers in Game 2 of the ALDS between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians, it was Boston's ace, David Price, who had a wealth of postseason experience, while Cleveland's hurler, Corey Kluber, was making his first start in October baseball. Being the fourth straight postseason for Price, whose services cost the Red Sox $217 million, the advantage seemed tilted towards the Red Sox.
However, in front of a raucous home crowd, Kluber, the 2014 Cy Young Award winner, pitched like the postseason veteran, dominating the potent Red Sox lineup to the tune of 7+ shutout innings with seven strikeouts, as the Boston bats knocked out just three hits off of Kluber.
Meanwhile, Price's postseason sorrows continue. In his fourth straight postseason, with his fourth different team, Price still cannot find success past the month of September. Entering the game with an ERA above 5 in 8 playoff starts, Price did nothing to lower that mark, as he was touched for five runs over 3.1 innings. The lackluster performance from the man Boston picked up to shine in this moment put the Red Sox into a 2-0 hole, one game away from elimination, following the 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, who sit on the verge of advancing to the ALCS for the first time since 2007, when they lost in seven games to the Red Sox.
The big blow in the second tilt in as many days between the squads was delivered from an unlikely source, as right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall roped a three-run homerun to right field, which got out of the park in a hurry, barely clearing the fence 348 feet from home plate. The three-run blast put an exclamation mark on a four-run second inning, which Boston could never recover from. Jose Ramirez and Brandon Guyer were key cogs in the offensive attack for Cleveland, combining for five hits out of the sixth and seven slots in the lineup.
Cleveland roughs up Price
One day after their Cy Young candidate in Rick Porcello failed to deliver on the mound, the Red Sox turned to Price, who has appeared in the playoffs for Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, and the Toronto Blue Jays over the past three years. Price looked sharp in retiring the first four batters, but things quickly unraveled from there.
Carlos Santana lined a single into left field for a one-out base hit, setting the stage for the inning. Ramirez tapped a weak hopper that got past Price and into no-mans land. Third baseman Brock Holt bobbled the ball, but the speedy Ramirez was credited with a hit, bringing up Guyer, who was making his first start of the postseason.
A mid-season acquisition from the Tampa Bay Rays, the left fielder quickly endeared himself to those Cleveland fans who had not embraced him, fighting off an inside fastball and dropping it into shallow center field for an RBI single. Anyone watching the game could sense the inning was unraveling for Price, who proceeded to be victimized by what has crushed him all season long - home runs. Having given up 30 of them during the season, Price gave up a postseason dinger, as Chisenhall turned on an inside fastball, sending the ball out of Progressive Field at a scorching pace, giving the Indians a 4-0 lead.
The advantage was easily enough for Kluber, but the Indians added a pair of insurance marks, tagging Price for one more run, in the fourth inning and reliever Matt Barnes for an unearned tally in the fifth inning for a 6-0 lead that would stand up.
Kluber dominates in first start back from quad injury
Making his first start in 11 days due to a quad injury, Kluber showed absolutely no rust, nor did he show any signs of folding under the pressure of making his first postseason start. With a chance to send Cleveland to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox thrive, with a 2-0 series lead, Kluber capitalized. He faced the minimum nine batters over the first three innings, his only blemish being a one-out single allowed to Holt, who was promptly erased off the basepaths via a double play.
The only real jam he faced in his first seven frames, Kluber sandwiched two walks around a strikeout to open up the fourth inning. With the Sox trailing 4-0, David Ortiz stepped into the box with a chance to narrow the gap in a big way. The beloved slugger got his pitch, but he popped it up. Hanley Ramirez followed by striking out, allowing Kluber to escape the mini-jam. It was the only time Kluber allowed two runners in an inning until the eighth, when the first two Red Sox reached, leading to his removal from the game. However, a two-inning bullpen effort from Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw preserved the shutout and the victory. The only Red Sox hitters to tally hits in the contest were Holt, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts.
The two teams get a day off on Saturday, as the series shifts to Boston, where the intially favored Red Sox will fight to extend their season to at least Columbus Day. Meanwhile, the Indians, likely trying to not remember the last time they played the Red Sox in the postseason, when they blew a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS, will look to close things out quickly. They turn to Josh Tomlin, who opposes Clay Buchholz on the bump. The Indians will have much of their stellar bullpen ready again by Sunday, as their easy victory on Friday allowed them to sit both Cody Allen and Andrew Miller. They'll be ready to back up Tomlin and the prolific Cleveland offense that has tatooed Boston's starting pitching thus far in the series.
The Red Sox may look to do some shuffling offensively to boost their scuffling bats. Manager John Farrell has said that the Red Sox are at the best when the bottom of their order is producing. However, two key bats in Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are failing to produce, thus failing to create the sense of a powerful lineup from their leadoff hitter to their #9 hitter, a feeling that the Red Sox had all season long. Thus far, Bogaerts and Bradley are 1-14 with 9 strikeouts in the ALDS. Does Farrell dare sit one or both of his budding stars? He has a day off to contemplate the decisions, as he attempts to steer the Red Sox off the edge of the cliff, and give them a chance to get back to Cleveland.