BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox are back in the playoffs for the first time since they won it all in 2013, and their quest for another World Series title starts with an ALDS matchup with the Cleveland Indians.
Both teams tout powerful offenses, which could give the pitching staffs fits throughout the best-of-five series. While we don’t know all of the starting pitching matchups we’ll see, the Red Sox appear to have the edge on that front with Cleveland losing two of their top starters last month in Carlos Carrasco (11-8 with a 3.32 ERA before a hand injury ended his season) and Danny Salazar (who should be available out of the bullpen after a forearm strain sidelined him on September 9).
But then there’s one daunting stat that will have Red Sox squirming a bit heading into the series: None of Boston’s starting pitchers have a postseason win as a starter. It’s a trend everyone hopes will end come Thursday night in Cleveland.
Here’s a closer look at the pitching matchups that have been announced for the upcoming Red Sox-Indians ALDS:
Game 1: Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15) vs. Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26)
Porcello was the ace of the Red Sox staff all season, and he looks to carry that success over to the postseason. He is 0-2 with a 4.41 ERA in his playoff career (only two starts in eight games), and 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 career starts at Progressive Field. Overall against the Indians, Porcello is 10-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 22 career starts.
The 22-game winner made just one start against the Indians during the 2016 regular season, way back on May 22 at Fenway Park, earning his seventh win of the year after allowing two runs on five hits over 5.2 innings. While they only tagged him for a pair of runs, which came off an two-run single by second baseman Jason Kipnis in the second inning, the Indians made Porcello work as he threw 115 pitches in that short outing.
With the injuries at the front of their rotation, the Indians turn to 25-year-old Bauer in Game 1. He saw the Red Sox twice during the regular season, once as a starter and once out of the bullpen, and didn’t have much success either time. The righty gave up a two-run homer to David Ortiz in Cleveland’s opening day loss, and was then tagged for four runs off eight hits in a May 21 start at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won that game 9-1, with Hanley Ramirez driving in two of Boston’s three runs in the third inning with an opposite field line drive single, and Mookie Betts crushing a solo homer off Bauer in the fourth inning.
For his career, Bauer is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in three games (including two starts) against the Red Sox.
Hitters To Watch:
– David Ortiz is 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles against Bauer.
– Mookie Betts is 3-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and three RBIs against Bauer.
– Kipnis is one of the few Indians to have success against Porcello, going 10-for-31 with a double and homer while driving in eight runs against the Boston ace.
– Mike Napoli has done everything but homer in his 18 career at-bats against Porcello, clubbing a pair of doubles and a triple. He’s also struck out eight times against Cy Porcello.
Game 2: David Price (17-9, 3.99) vs. Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14)
Plenty has been said about Price’s struggles in the playoffs, but it’s a major storyline heading into his first postseason with the Red Sox. The lefty is 2-7 with a 5.12 ERA in 14 postseason games (eight of which were starts), allowing 77 base runners (62 hits, 12 walks and three HBPs) in 63.1 innings of work. That’s no recipe for success, especially in October.
The long ball has really come back to hurt him in the last couple of postseasons, with Price allowing seven homers in his last six playoff appearances. The Kansas City Royals really roughed him up in his two outings with the Blue Jays in the 2015 ALCS, clubbing a pair of homers and tagging him for eight runs in 13.1 innings over his two starts. He finished the 2015 postseason with a 2-1 record (he earned a W out of the bullpen), allowing 16 runs over 23.1 innings pitched.
Price has had one bad luck start in his playoff career, a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the 2014 ALDS when he gave up just five hits and struck out six over eight innings. But other than that, the outings have not been impressive. He’s allowed five or more runs in three of his last five playoff starts, which includes a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox in the 2013 ALDS where he allowed a pair of towering home runs to David Ortiz (and then complained about Papi’s home run trot after the game).
You just don’t know what you’re going to get out of Price when he toes the rubber in the postseason, but pitching well when it matters most is what Dave Dombrowski paid him $217 million for last winter. He struggled a bit down the stretch, so hopefully the lefty can reverse that trend.
If Price can twirl a gem on Friday, chances are we’ll see a nice little pitcher’s duel. Kluber, just two years removed from winning the AL Cy Young award, won 18 games during the regular season, including victories in nine of his final 12 starts. Opponents hit just .215 off of him during that stretch.
Kluber is dealing with a strained right quad that he suffered in his last start back on September 26, which is the reason he’s not getting the ball in Game 1, but it doesn’t look to be anything serious as the righty tossed a successful bullpen session on Monday. Cleveland’s ace had mixed results in his two starts against Boston early in the regular season, allowing four earned runs over 5.1 innings in their opening day loss (also against Price) before tossing seven innings of two-run ball in a 4-2 Indians win at Fenway Park on May 20.
He’s made eight career starts against Boston (and nine total appearances), going 2-3 with a 4.78 ERA — his second-highest career ERA against an AL opponent (Kluber has a 5.34 ERA in five starts against Toronto).
This one could really go either way, but if both pitchers are on their game, this should be the matchup to watch.
Hitters To Watch:
– Betts has hit .400 (4-for-10) with a homer and a double in his career against Kluber.
– Shaw has four strikeouts in 11 career at-bats against Kluber, but one of his four hits against the righty left the yard.
– Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz are a combined 6-for-32 (.188) against Kluber.
– Indians DH Carlos Santana has had the most success against Price, going 10-for-31 (.323) with four doubles while drawing six walks.
Game 3: Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40) vs. Clay Buchholz (8-10, 4.78)
Buchholz will reportedly be Boston’s Game 3 starter (via The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton), which would usually send Red Sox nation into hysterics. But while things didn’t start off great for the righty during the 2016 campaign, the good news for the Red Sox is he finished strong.
Buchholz essentially saved his career by winning four of his final seven starts, logging a 2.63 ERA over that stretch. He’s 2-2 in seven career starts against the Indians, and has no record in his five career postseason starts. Buchholz has a 4.21 ERA in those playoff games, with the Red Sox going 3-2.
Rounding out Cleveland’s three-man ALDS rotation is 31-year-old righty Josh Tomlin. He’s made seven appearances (six starts) against the Red Sox during his seven-year career, going 2-3 with a 5.49 ERA in those outings. Tomlin pitched well in his one appearance against Boston in 2016, allowing three runs over 7.2 innings in their August 15 make-up game in Cleveland, but surrendered homers to Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. in a 3-2 win by the Sox.
Hitters To Watch:
– Bradley Jr. is 3-for-7 with a homer against Tomlin.
– Pedroia and Ortiz have the most at-bats against Tomlin (17) on the Red Sox roster. Pedroia is 5-for-17, while all three of Ortiz’s three hits against the righty have been home runs.
No starters have been announced by either team for Monday’s Game 4 or Wednesday’s Game 5 (if necessary).