Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello have all been masterful for the Red Sox at various points in the past few years.
Sale – who is being eased back into the rotation while recovering from a serious shoulder injury – is currently a favorite for the Cy Young. Price has guided the Red Sox to victory in 18 of his last 22 starts and has lowered his ERA to 3.53 in the process. Porcello, who won the Cy Young in 2016, has been durable and at times dominant.
While Boston’s three top starters have all achieved plenty of success with the team, they also share a less encouraging common thread. In Sale’s one full year, Price’s two full years, and Porcello’s three full years with the club, none of them has won a playoff game for the Sox.
Sale is 0-2 in one start, Price is 0-1 in one start, and Porcello is 0-1 in two starts with the Sox. Together, they’re a combined 2-13 in the postseason throughout their careers.
Granted, it’s a relatively small sample size, but if the Red Sox do advance deep into the playoffs, these starters will individually and collectively be doing something they’ve never done before.
Chris Sale is eager for redemption.
The southpaw has dominated ever since he entered the league in 2010. With a career record of 103-62 and an ERA of 2.88, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the majors in that span.
The White Sox, however, have not been one of the best teams. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, which meant Sale was deprived of pitching in October for the first seven years of his career.
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) September 21, 2018
In 2017, his first season in Boston, the Red Sox made the playoffs but Sale struggled against the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros.
He started Game 1 and allowed seven earned runs in five rocky innings in an 8-2 loss. Sale came on in relief in Game 4 and surrendered two runs in 4 2/3 frames, taking the loss that ended the team’s season.
Assuming Sale is healthy enough to start, this will be a major opportunity to establish himself as a playoff ace.
David Price is hoping to win the fans over.
Much has been made of Price’s woes in the playoffs, and, statistically speaking, the accusations aren’t misguided.
Price is 2-8 with a 5.03 ERA in 17 playoff games (nine starts), compared to 142-75 with a 3.25 ERA in the regular season. This one can’t be chalked up to a lack of opportunity.
The lefthander made the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2013 with the Rays, 2014 with the Tigers, 2015 with the Blue Jays, and 2016 and 2017 with the Red Sox.
David Price has been part of a division-winning team in 5 consecutive seasons:
2014 – Detroit
2015 – Toronto
2016 – Boston
2017 – Boston
2018 – Boston
— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) September 22, 2018
He found the most success at the beginning of his career and this past year. In 2008, he thrived in a relief role, not allowing a run in three appearances (2 1/3 innings) against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. He was relatively sharp in the World Series as well, yielding one earned run in 3 1/3 innings against the Phillies.
It was largely downhill from there, as Price’s ERA was above 4 in six of the next seven playoff runs. His best showing came with the Tigers in 2014, when he tossed eight innings of two-run ball against the Orioles in his lone start.
Arguably his worst performance came in his first year with Boston, 2016, when he gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings in the American League Division Series in a 6-0 Game 2 loss to the Indians. Last year, he may have turned a corner, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings in relief against the Astros.
It would appear likely that manager Alex Cora will start him in Game 2, but Price has actually had significantly more success out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
Rick Porcello will be looking for a postseason win.
Porcello has pitched in the playoffs five out of the last seven years, but he doesn’t have any individual wins to show for it. His ERA is 5.47, including 6.75 in the ALDS, and his hit total (29) is higher than both his inning total (24 2/3) and strikeout total (23).
He gave up four earned runs in one start against the Yankees in the 2011 ALDS, taking the loss in Game 4. The Tigers won the series, and Porcello was solid in the ALCS against the Rangers. He gave up four runs in nine combined innings in three appearances (one start), striking out seven and only walking one.
Over the next two years, he pitched just 1 1/3 total playoff innings, so there isn’t much to work with there.
With the Sox, in his Cy Young season in 2016, he was shelled for five earned runs — including three home runs – in 4 1/3 innings against the Indians. The next year, he gave up two runs in four innings in two appearances against the Astros.
That puts him at 0-3 overall, with some highs and some lows, but little sustained success.
A deep run would likely signify newfound success for these starters.
Nowadays in the playoffs, starting pitchers tend to not last as long as they used to. Perhaps that will change with the way the game is evolving to favor pitchers this year, but recent history would suggest it’s less common for starters to get decisions.
Either way, Sale, Price, and Porcello only have two playoff wins in 30 playoff appearances. Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t pitched in the playoffs, Drew Pomeranz is 0-1 with a 9.53 ERA, and Eduardo Rodriguez’s ERA is infinity in one appearance.
Time will tell whether their woes continue, or if this is the year they change the course of history. It’s not unrealistic to think Boston’s starters could curb the trend and lead the team to the World Series. It would, however, require an unprecedented level of success from each pitcher.