Every time David Price struggles in the postseason, it's a surprise to an extent.
In the same way people like to proclaim a player or team as "due" to come through, finally, after days or weeks or months or years of failure, Price seems due to turn in an above-average start in a meaningful October game. And every time he doesn't, the question remains: Why?
Price struggled again Saturday, early and often, getting just five outs before Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided he'd seen enough. Price gave up three runs, including two homers, before exiting, a hole from which the Sox wouldn't dig themselves out in a 6-2 loss in Game 2 of their ALDS against the Yankees.
"It's tough," Price said after the game. "You know, just after we won Game 1 to go out there and have that opportunity to go up 2-0 and to throw the baseball the way that I did, it was definitely tough.
"But my spirits aren't down, my confidence isn't down. I'm looking forward to getting back out there and getting another opportunity."
It's amazing, really, the stark difference a month makes. In 299 appearances spanning 11 season, Price has a 3.25 ERA during regular-season play. When the calendar flips to October? After Saturday, his career postseason ERA is now at 5.28.
How the Sox handle Price going forward is the next question. Coming off an elbow injury, the southpaw did pitch well in relief last October, firing 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Astros. The team could opt to put him in the bullpen, where he could be a weapon at best and avoidable at worst.
With Steven Wright injured and Eduardo Rodriguez pitching in relief, though, that may not be a luxury the Sox have. Asked after Saturday's game, Cora didn't have an answer except that, whatever the role, Price won't be buried after another disappointing postseason appearance.
"We trust him," Cora told reporters.
Astros Strike, Strike Out Indians To Take 2-0 Series Lead
If one needed a reminder of the human element to sports, Price was front and center Saturday as Exhibit A.
But earlier in the day, the Indians also demonstrated that fact, doing something they hadn't done all year before Saturday.
The Tribe lost 3-1 to the Astros to fall behind 2-0 in the series, but it was the fashion in which they lost that was remarkable. Astros starter Gerrit Cole struck out 12 over his seven innings of work, becoming the first pitcher this year to fan 11 or more Indians batters in a single game.
Through two games, the Indians, the team that in the regular season had the lowest strikeout rate in the majors, have struck out 19 times against Astros starters.
"We knew coming in that we had our hands full with their pitching staff," Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said.
For five innings it appeared that Cole's brilliance might be wasted, as a Francisco Lindor solo homer in the third inning was the difference in the contest. But the Astros put two runners on for Marwin Gonzalez, and after Indians manager Terry Francona removed starter Carlos Carrasco, Gonzalez greeted reliever Andrew Miller with a two-run double. Alex Bregman would add a solo homer later in the game to pad the lead, and Roberto Osuna closed it out without incident.
The clubs now head to Cleveland, where the Indians will look to stay alive behind Mike Clevinger. The Astros, conversely, will seek a return to the ALCS led by former AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.
Hicks, Moreland Up in the Air for G3
Relatively minor injuries are clouding the availability of two starters for Monday's ALDS Game 3 between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Aaron Hicks, who left Friday's Game 1 with a hamstring issue, was held out of the lineup on Saturday and will be a game-time decision for Monday's contest in New York. Hicks felt his right hamstring tighen during Friday's game and despite testing it in the outfield Saturday afternoon -- and despite an MRI showing no strain -- he took a seat in favor of Brett Gardner.
"I think he wanted to play, but I think he was kind of OK [with the decision] and said, 'Yeah, I still feel a little something. It's in there,'" Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I think there's just that little bit of apprehension that he could go out there and tweak it a little more. Then you're really up against it. I think he understands and hopefully can benefit from being off it for a day and a half."
On the other side, Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland left Saturday's game with a tight hamstring that threatens his availability for Monday. Cora said the move was mostly precautionary and the they're hopeful Moreland can go Monday. If not, Steve Pearce will likely start at first base in his stead.
Quick Hits: Braves manager Brian Snitker said Saturday that Sean Newcomb will start Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers on Sunday. The team had previously named Kevin Gausman the Game 3 starter but tapped Newcomb, who pitched two scoreless innings in relief in Game 1 of the series, instead. It's hard to argue with the decision after the southpaw was a revelation in the regular season, going 12-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 164 innings of work. Gausman may be pushed back to a potential Game 4 or could be used in relief in an all-hands-on-deck situation Sunday ... Aaron Judge went 2-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored in Saturday's ALDS Game 2 win over the Red Sox. Judge hit a no-doubter to dead center off Sox starter David Price in the first inning, the second time this October he's staked the Yanks to an early lead with a first-inning shot. Those two jacks, sandwiched around a ninth-inning homer off Sox closer Craig Kimbrel in Friday's Game 1, give Judge three homers in as many games, and he's 7-for-12 in three postseason contests this month ... Braves manager Brian Snitker said Ender Inciarte will bat second in Sunday's NLDS Game 3. That's a departure from the first two games of the series, in which Inciarte hit seventh while Johan Camargo batted second. Part of the reasoning, surely, is that Camargo is hitless in eight at-bats. Another consideration is likely that after two southpaws to start the series, the Braves will draw a right-hander, albeit a tough one, in rookie Walker Buehler. Inciarte had some success from the second spot in the lineup during the regular season, batting .326/.402/.472 in 89 at-bats.