It seemed hard to imagine that David Price’s torturous postseason history could get any worse. And then, Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees happened.
Price warranted a raised eyebrow when he threw a 91 mile-per-hour fastball in the dirt on his first pitch of the game. Things got little better in the Red Sox’ 6-2 loss to New York once he started throwing pitches in the strike zone.
In a shockingly awful performance, Price was pulled after just 1⅔ innings after allowing three runs on three hits and two walks, with two of the hits coming as solo homers by Aaron Judge (445 feet, exit velocity: 113 m.p.h.) and longtime Price nemesis Gary Sanchez (7-for-14 with 6 homers against Price after a 108-m.p.h., 399-foot rocket).
The lefthander joins Al Leiter as the only pitchers in postseason history without a win to their names in 10 or more career playoff starts. Price’s ERA of 6.03 as a starter is the third worst among the 70 pitchers who have made at least 10 starts.
And his struggles against the Yankees this year — a dominant outing in August notwithstanding — are almost unfathomable, as he’s yielded 11 homers against them in just 17⅓ innings. Against the rest of the big leagues this year, Price allowed 16 homers in 160⅓ innings.
Price has said repeatedly that nothing in his career record will matter until he wins a playoff game as a starter. If so, then the weight of his career struggles just increased exponentially with the worst playoff start of his career.
The dud shifted the odds against the Red Sox as the series moves to New York. In Division Series history, the home team has won 13 of 35 series (37 percent) in which it split the first two games.
■ Pitching coach Dana LeVangie has described the key to beating the Yankees as keeping them in the park, a notion borne out by a regular season in which New York went 63-15 (.808) when hitting two or more homers. The Red Sox failed in that effort on Saturday, with Price allowing two homers and Eduardo Rodriguez giving up a massive, 479-foot, three-run homer to Gary Sanchez in the seventh that sucked all drama out of the game.
■ The Yankees have done a number on Eduardo Nunez (0-for-7 with a walk), Ian Kinsler (2-for-8 with a double but also five strikeouts), and Sandy Leon (0-for-5 with a sacrifice bunt) through the first two games of the series. The Red Sox are sitting two of their hottest hitters down the stretch — Rafael Devers and Brock Holt — in deference to that trio. With just two runs in the team’s last 15 innings, it’s fair to wonder whether manager Alex Cora will have to adjust to generate more offense for Game 3 against righthander Luis Severino.
■ The Yankees bullpen has come as advertised thus far in the series, allowing one run in 11 innings.
■ The Red Sox may have nightmares about Aaron Judge. He’s homered in each of his three playoff games thus far this year, with no lingering effect of the broken wrist that sidelined him for August and much of September.
■ Joe Kelly was one of the final choices for the Red Sox pitching staff, his uneven performances raising questions about his reliability in October. But Kelly’s track record in the postseason is as good as that of any Red Sox pitcher, and the righthander continued that pattern by following Price into the game and throwing 2⅓ scoreless innings of relief — his longest outing of the 2018 season. Kelly’s now thrown 8⅔ shutout innings of postseason relief for the Red Sox, and in 16⅓ career playoff innings as a reliever (dating to his time with the Cardinals), he has a 1.10 ERA.
■ Xander Bogaerts, who typically struggles to pull the trigger on the first pitch of at-bats, gave the Red Sox their lone run by blasting a Masahiro Tanaka fastball to center. It was the eighth first-pitch homer of the shortstop’s career. He later grounded out on a Zach Britton first pitch, reinforcing the sense that he is making a concerted effort to be more aggressive in hitter’s counts.