You can certainly blame it on David Price if you’d like, but when he exited in the second inning the Yankees had scored only three runs. That should be easily surmountable with the type of high-octane offense the Red Sox have had this season.
But if there was a subplot in this game it was the lack of offense coming from a team that has produced big numbers.
Price didn’t do much to support the lineup, but what a difference from what happened in Game 1, when J.D. Martinez set the tone for Chris Sale with a three-run homer in the first inning. The Sox offense didn’t score after the third inning in Game 1, nearly squandering Martinez’s first-inning offensive prowess when they couldn’t do anything against the Yankees’ bullpen.
A similar thing happened in Game 2. Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka pitched five solid innings and the bullpen — predominantly Dellin Betances — again kept the Sox offense at bay. This lack of production has to be an issue for the Red Sox because it was thought coming in there was little chance the Yankee pitching could contain the Sox offense. But guess what? The Yankees have been able to contain them enough to send this series to New York tied, 1-1.
It’s not like the Red Sox have been shut down completely. They have scored seven runs in two games. But Xander Bogaerts’s solo homer and Ian Kinsler’s RBI double was it in the 6-2 loss in Game 2. The Red Sox may not admit it, but they let a great opportunity slip away.
“We expanded [the strike zone] tonight,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “His [Tanaka] split was a lot better. He made some pitches early in the game and compared to the last one that we had against him, we were very disciplined in New York, [but] not tonight.
“We expanded and he did a good job. It seems like when had him on the ropes when the counts were in our favor, he got back in the count and he threw a split or a slider and we expanded,” Cora said.
We all thought J.D. Martinez’s first-inning three-run shot that set the tone for the 5-4 Game 1 victory was a sign of things to come, but the offense has sputtered since. The Red Sox are hitting only .213 in the first two games and they’ve struck out 13 times with two homers and two doubles.
It would appear Cora will have to not only manage his pitching staff after Price’s brief outing, but he’ll also have to do something about the lineup.
While Martinez did his part in Game 1, MVP candidate Mookie Betts has had two unproductive games (1 for 7) and has yet to drive in a run in nine postseason games. Yes, it’s only two games, but in a five-game series, two games is like an eternity.
The Sox were the best offensive team in the majors. So where has that team gone?
Cora has tried to emphasize defense, which is why Eduardo Nunez started at third base over lefthanded-hitting Rafael Devers against Tanaka. However, Nunez made some shaky throws, which negated his value in the lineup for defense.
The Red Sox have also been content to use Sandy Leon as the starting catcher even though he’s been an easy out. Leon is the favorite catcher of the pitching staff and his defensive work in Game 1 was about as good as you’ll see from a catcher. Leon has done great work with Sale but was unable to spin his magic with David Price and then Eduardo Rodriguez, who allowed a three-run homer to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 6-1 cushion for the Yankees.
The popular narrative on the Red Sox is that they are a team that can beat you in many different ways. Well, we saw the long ball, we saw Andrew Benintendi’s nice drag bunt for a base hit in Game 1 and Bogaerts’s solo homer in Game 2. But with five hits on Saturday night the Red Sox were never able to mount any sustainable rally that might have challenged the Yankees, particularly when the game was within reach at 3-1. That’s not an insurmountable lead for the Red Sox, who 17 times this season erased a three-plus run deficit, the most comebacks by any team in the majors.
The Red Sox also had to take Mitch Moreland out of the game with a hamstring tweak, which means the Sox likely will go with Steve Pearce at first unless Cora feels compelled to start either Brock Holt or Blake Swihart there.
Two games in, the Red Sox already need an offensive boost. You never want to sacrifice defense for the sake of offense, but in this case the Red Sox know they’re facing a prolific home run-hitting team. The Red Sox have to score runs to offset what the Yankees have the potential to throw at them, especially now that Gary Sanchez has awoken to go along with Aaron Judge. And if Giancarlo Stanton awakens, then the Sox are really in trouble.
Yes, the main story Saturday night might have been Price’s poor outing, but the offense right now isn’t doing anyone the team any favors, either.