ALDS Rays-Red Sox Game 2 preview: David Price vs. John Lackey
The Sox punished the Rays in Game 1, but can they handle the reigning AL Cy Young winner in Game 2 on Saturday?
Game 1 wasn't much of a contest, as the Red Sox battered Matt Moore and the Rays by a tally of 12-2. Game 2, though, features Tampa Bay ace and reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price (10-8, 3.33 ERA, 114 ERA+, 1.10 WHIP, 5.59 K/BB). He'll be opposing Comeback-Player-of-the-Year candidate John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA, 116 ERA+, 1.16 WHIP, 4.03 K/BB), and the action starts at 4:30 pm ET in Fenway.
To whet some appetites, let's see how the pitching match-up might shake out ...
Price vs. Red Sox
This season, Price has faced the Red Sox five times. Across those 32 2/3 innings, he's posted a 2.48 ERA and struck out 30 batters against just three walks. Considering the strength of the Boston offense, that qualifies as dominance. Three of those five starts came at Fenway, and Price was no less dominant in those games. On that same note, batters currently on the Boston roster have combined to hit .216/.276/.368 against Price over their careers (273 total plate appearances in the sample).
Let it also be said that Price is on a roll since the break, as his second-half ERA is more than a full run lower than his first-half mark. The further he's gotten from that triceps strain that cost him more than a month of the season, the better he's pitched.
Taking the wider view, the Red Sox offense, once you adjust for park effects, is fairly middle-of-the-road in terms of performance against left-handed pitchers. On the other hand, they rank second to only the Tigers in terms of weight runs created+ (wRC+), which is a park-adjusted metric, in home games. So they're kind of "meh" against lefties but tough in Fenway, generally speaking.
Price, for what it's worth, will be going on full rest after beating the Rangers in the wild-card tiebreaker game on Monday.
Lackey vs. Rays
In 2013, Lackey has opposed Tampa Bay twice, and he's been cuffed around: 10 innings, 8.10 ERA, 19 hits, two homers. Both of those starts went down at the Trop, and, as you may have guessed, Lackey was ineffective in each of them. Rays hitters on the roster have a combined -- and robust -- career line of .303/.362/.429 against Lackey across 222 plate appearances. Sample-size caveats apply in a big way, but Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar have each generally abused Lackey in their encounters.
Other trends: Lackey this season has an ERA that's almost exactly two runs lower at home; on the other hand, his second-half ERA (4.35) compares unfavorably to his first-half mark of 2.78. The Rays offense, meantime, ranks sixth in the AL in wRC+ on the road and fourth in the AL in wRC+ versus right-handers.
Lackey hasn't taken the mound since Sept. 24 against the Rockies.