After David Price pitched a dud in Game 2 against the Yankees—getting only five outs and giving up a pair of home runs—it might have come as a bit of a surprise to many Red Sox fans when Boston manager Alex Cora announced that Price would be pitching Game 2 in the ALCS. For our ALCS roundtable, the SI MLB staff contemplated when—or if—they would have started Price against the Astros.
Tom Verducci: David Price is Boston’s fourth-best starter right now. Put him in the bullpen for Games 1 and 2, and have him penciled in to start Game 4. If Price continues to look more comfortable in a relief role, leave him there, and let Eduardo Rodriguez start Game 4.
Rodriguez has too small of a sample size against Houston to draw conclusions (one good start three years ago, two bad ones each of the past two years). But keep this in mind when you look for any weaknesses in a deep Houston team: Rodriguez has reverse splits and a changeup as his out pitch: Houston hit .232 against lefthanded changeups, ranking 21st in baseball.
Stephanie Apstein: I would start David Price in Game 2. I don’t believe he is constitutionally unfit to pitch in the postseason, and I expect him to do well against Houston. The Yankees were about the worst imaginable matchup for him; over the past two years—regular and postseason—Price has held the Astros to a .617 OPS, fourth best among pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings against them.
Emma Baccellieri: Manager Alex Cora seems to have made up his mind here, saying Price will be ready to start Game 2. But I think there was a strong case for keeping him in the ‘pen. They’d already announced that would be their strategy for the remainder of the ALDS, had it lasted longer, and it would have made sense to stick with it. Boston’s bullpen can’t touch Houston’s (3.74 ERA to 3.03; 4.28 K/BB to 2.56), and Price could do a little to help close that gap. (The Astros’ rotation is better, too, but that difference isn’t nearly as gaping.)
Apart from that: Yes, postseason numbers are a small sample, too much so to be meaningfully predictive. But there are personal and psychological effects to consider, too, and moving a man back to the rotation after he’s already been shifted to the bullpen is more complicated than copying and pasting a name on a spreadsheet. But Cora, of course, has the best read on what that means to Price—and he’s decided that the best answer here is also the most conventionally statistically sound one.
Ben Reiter: Of course they should start him. You want him at Fenway, where he had a 2.98 ERA against a 4.31 on the road, but Chris Sale’s obviously got Game 1, so Game 2 is the spot.
Connor Grossman: In the course of a series that could go seven games, it's in the Boston's best interest to start David Price at least once. He performed relatively well in two starts against the Astros this season, allowing five runs across 12 1/3 innings while posting an .811 WHIP. The postseason monkey is very much on Price's back, but if Boston doesn't fall in an immediate 0-2 or 0-3 hole, the righthander may very well be Boston's best bet in a Game 3 or 4 situation and work out of the bullpen afterward.
Jon Tayler: I don’t think the Red Sox have a choice but to start Price. Their only other rotation option would be lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who is coming off a good season overall (3.82 ERA, 146 strikeouts in 129 2/3 innings) but was bad in September after coming back from an ankle injury (a 5.40 ERA and 13 walks in 25 frames). Against a patient, powerful and righty-heavy Astros lineup, Rodriguez doesn’t inspire much confidence. Unless Alex Cora wants to bullpen an ALCS game, Price is all he’s got.
Jack Dickey: Price's postseason struggles remain unexplained, and it would be tempting, in the absence of a definitive explanation, to let him continue starting. The problem is that the Astros own lefties—in 2018, no team posted a better OPS against them than Houston's .803. Price and his team would be better served were he used situationally.