HOUSTON — Let David Price loose. And Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel.
The monster was built late in the season. It's operational. Now, to employ its full destructive force.
The silver lining for the Red Sox after the Jose Altuve show lies in what we have not yet seen.
Chris Sale flopped and the Red Sox floundered in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, 8-2. The score got out of hand, and manager John Farrell was wise in at least one way: he did not touch the prime pieces of a bullpen envisioned as a newly improved difference maker, a group of relievers who make for perhaps the team’s only clear advantage against Houston.
If Game 1 was about Sale — the perceived constant on a team of many question marks — Game 2 is about the bullpen. It has to be. Farrell needs to empty the tank to keep the score close all afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Price is fresh for maybe 40 pitches and a couple innings, you figure. Reed and Kimbrel can get more than three outs, maybe as many as six.
Of course, the Sox need Pomeranz to keep the game close early. Two home runs in the first inning, a la Sale, would be a problem. But his start should be short no matter what, unless he’s really carving up the Astros.
Then, whether Pomeranz leaves with a lead or not, the bullpen has to give an offense without much power a chance.
It’s not like Sale or Verlander carried it deep into the night in Game 1. Verlander made it six innings, and even that wasn’t guaranteed. Pomeranz isn't known for consistently long starts generally.
“The early part of the game showed us how difficult it is to conserve your pitches in a playoff atmosphere and against two playoff teams that are good because both guys had to exert a lot of energy and a lot of pitches in the first third of the game,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Sale and Justin Verlander. “I was proud of Verlander getting through the 6th inning because as the game was unfolding early, I didn't think either guy was going to last as deep as what we all anticipated. But our guy lasted a little longer.”
Enter the Sox bullpen, the meat of it. It’s a weapon that was assembled at the last minute and has had a couple test runs in the regular season, including Saturday when the Sox at last clinched the American League East. Now, for the real thing.
There’s an off-day between Games 2 and 3, when any and all relievers used Friday can recuperate. At this point, there’d be only one time in this series Price could pitch on back-to-back days, if he throws in Games 3 and 4. That’s better for his arm.
The Sox have to now ensure they get to a Game 4, and the best way to do that is arrive at Fenway Park with a split in Houston.
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