Posted on October 6, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Boston Red Sox Mookie Betts

Image via bostonglobe.com

The New York Yankees will try to even up the ALDS at one game apiece Saturday night after dropping the first game of the series to the Boston Red Sox. A J.D. Martinez home run in the first inning gave the Red Sox an early 3-0 lead in Game 1. The lead would grow to 5-0 before the Yankees starting chipping away. In the end, the Red Sox closed out a 5-4 win, giving them a huge lift early in the series.

Walking Wounded

The Yankees appeared to put some September injury concerns behind them before the playoffs started, but that changed when Aaron Hicks left Game 1 with a hamstring injury. Hicks sounded hopeful that he’ll be back in the lineup for Game 2. However, as the team’s no. 3 hitter, he’d be a massive loss if that’s not the case. If he can’t go, Brett Gardner will play center field while Aaron Boone will have to move pieces around in his lineup.

Pitching Matchup

With their eyes set on a 2-0 series lead, the Red Sox will send David Price to the hill in Game 2. Price had some ups and downs during the first half of the season, but he was locked in after the all-star break. In his last 11 starts, he was 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA. However, some of his worst starts of the season came against the Yankees, including an outing in mid-September when he gave up six runs (four earned) over 5.1 innings. Price is also 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA in nine career playoff starts, so he’s rarely been at his best in October.

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The Yankees will counter with Masahiro Tanaka, who has excelled in the postseason. Despite a 2-2 record, Tanaka owns a 1.44 ERA in four career postseason starts. Much like Price, he hit a few speed bumps early in the year but settled in late. Tanaka was 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in five September starts. Also like Price, he had some hiccups against the lineup he’ll face on Saturday. In his last start against Boston, he allowed five runs on eight hits over 4-plus innings, so he’s not exactly a sure thing to deliver the kind of start the Yankees need from him.

X-Factor

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has had a rough season, hitting just .186 despite 18 home runs. To make matters worse, he’s already 0 for 6 in the team’s two postseason games. However, he could hold the key to the Yankees getting back in this series. Quite a few Yankees have good numbers against Price in their career, but no one has done as much damage as Sanchez. He’s 6 for 13 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in his career against Price. That may be a small sample, but it’s impossible to ignore the success Sanchez has had when facing Price. If he can go long against Price again, it would surely give the Yankees a huge lift in the series.

For the Red Sox, the biggest X-factor in Game 2 could be their bullpen. Unless Price can suddenly alter his postseason profile, the Red Sox will need a long bridge to get to closer Craig Kimbrel, who threw 22 pitches and was asked to get four outs on Friday. Knuckleballer Steven Wright was supposed to be a key part of Boston’s bullpen but he’s now likely to be replaced on the roster. If Alex Cora needs more than one or two innings to get to Kimbrel, he may not have enough pitchers that he trusts to get there.

Prediction

The Yankees put up a good fight down 5-0 in Game 1, so they’ll put up a good fight down 1-0 in the series. Tanaka’s postseason history is far better than Price’s playoff past, which favors the Yankees, who also have Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances fully rested in their bullpen. Even if Tanaka isn’t perfect, the Yankees can still shut it down in the late innings whereas the Red Sox may not be so lucky. New York wins 8-6.

Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.

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