Game Two was not as fun as Game One. Hot take, I know. This was a tough one to watch as the Red Sox fell behind two batters into the game and were trailing for the entire night. It wasn’t all bad — and we’ll get into some positives a bit below — but the bad certainly outweighed any good on Saturday night. Before we start getting ready for Game Three in the Bronx, here are a few of the things I can’t seem to get out of my mind following the series-tying loss to the Yankees.
- Obviously, we have to start with David Price. He was the big concern heading into this series, both for his history in October and his seemingly never-ending trouble with the Yankees. Both of those issues reared their ugly heads on Saturday, and now it’s all about what’s next. I’ve thought a lot about this since Price was taken out of the game in the second inning and, well, honestly I still have no idea what to think. My initial reaction is that he just can’t start another postseason game. Put Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation and Price in the bullpen and see what happens. Of course, that sounds extremely reactionary, and I’m waiting for the benefit of time to tell me that’s crazy. Except, it hasn’t happened yet. I think if the Red Sox advance I may change my tune, but I definitely don’t think Price can start another game against the Yankees. Between his issues in the postseason and his issues against New York, it’s the latter that I buy into much more. They are in his head, and I just can’t trust him to start a potential Game Five in this series in the even Chris Sale needs to start Game Four. No way. I keep telling myself that the history of sports is littered with players who couldn’t succeed in the postseason right up until the moment they did, and these things are usually just weird and untimely small sample size noise. I don’t think I can keep saying that about Price. At this point, until he proves otherwise you have to assume he can’t perform. Long-term, there are real questions. Short-term, it’s pretty simple. He can’t start again.
- Price was the big loser in this game, and putting the Red Sox down early was a huge blow. That being said, the offense did not have a strong showing either. For as disappointing as Price was, the Yankees still spent the majority of this game with only three runs. The Red Sox had every opportunity to come back, but Xander Bogaerts had the only big swing of the night. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi both struggled, getting on base just once between the two of them, and Boston can’t have that at the top of their lineup. This is particularly true with the bottom of the lineup providing next to nothing right now, which gets us to our next point.
- Alex Cora did not have a great game, at least on the offensive side of the game. Look, I know it’s always easy to second-guess the manager, and he knows a lot more about what’s going on in that dugout than me and a whole lot of other qualifiers. He didn’t set the offense up to succeed in this game, though. There’s nothing he can do about bad games from Betts and Benintendi, but the bottom half of his lineup was....weird. Starting the game, Eduardo Núñez getting the call over Rafael Devers was bizarre. It was clearly about defense, but we saw that the former’s defense isn’t better by a big enough margin to justify him getting the start against a righty. If Devers doesn’t start Game Three against Luis Severino, there’s an issue here. Beyond that, I probably would have started Steve Pearce at first and Brock Holt at second, but I at least think Cora’s strategy here was more defensible.
- That being said, he could have done better with his in-game strategizing. For one thing, Sandy León was in this game for far too long. He probably should have been lifted in his first at bat after Price was taken out, but at the very least he should have been taken out of the game in the fifth. That was always going to be Masahiro Tanaka’s last inning, and León was leading off. They chose to carry three catchers theoretically for this very reason of being able to take León out of a game early if they’re trailing. This was that chance, and they didn’t take it. In addition to León, Devers not coming in for Núñez at any point in the game was a bizarre choice. The Red Sox don’t have the depth in their starting lineup of New York, and to match the production Cora has to be creative with matchups.
- On the positive side of this game, the bullpen was mostly fantastic. Joe Kelly came in after Price and there was a very real chance he was going to let the game get away from the Red Sox. At least, that’s how it felt. Instead, he was nails and shut down the Yankees for 2 2⁄3 innings. After that, Ryan Brasier was equally impressive in an inning of work, getting around a two-base error and getting into it a bit with Gary Sanchez. Brasier looked a little intimidated by the moment in Game One, but that certainly wasn’t the case in Game Two. Heath Hembree, who replaced Steven Wright on the roster, also tossed a couple of scoreless innings, though he did issue a couple free passes.
- Eduardo Rodriguez also came out of the bullpen, and he allowed a three-run homer that was really the back-breaker of the night. My real issue with him came before that, though. To start that seventh inning, Aaron Judge hit a weak grounder to first base and beat Rodriguez in a footrace to the bag. It wasn’t that simple, though. To be frank about, Rodriguez did not hustle at all, and it was unacceptable. Maybe Judge beats him anyway, but when you’re trailing by two late in a game you need to show more than that. It’s entirely possible his ankle was still bothering him, but A) he said that wasn’t the case after the game and B) he shouldn’t be pitching if his ankle is bothering him that much. It was just one play, but it was at an awful time and there are few things as frustrating as an apparent lack of effort.
- There is some thought that this series is over, which is obviously ridiculous. It’s a tied series! That being said, they did lose home field advantage and the Yankees do have the momentum. Looking ahead to Game Three, the Red Sox need to be aggressive. They need to be aggressive against Severino and not let him into a groove, and Cora needs to be aggressive in shaking up the lineup.