Your Sunday ALCS guide — Can the Boston Red Sox even up the series?

MLB


It wasn’t the most crisp win in postseason history, but the Astros ground down the Red Sox bullpen to notch a 7-2 victory in Fenway Park in the first game of the American League Championship Series. Will they be able to expand on that lead before the series heads back to Houston or will Boston achieve a split to give their series a touch of the same drama we’re getting from the NLCS?

The most important thing of the day: David Price’s teams are 0-10 when the left-hander starts in the postseason. If that number is 0-11 at the end of Sunday night’s game, you can bet that’s the baseball story everyone will be talking about Monday morning — and it could mean big trouble for Boston’s postseason hopes.

American League Championship Series Game 2: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox

Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA) vs. David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA), 7:09 p.m. ET, TBS and ESPN Radio

The stakes: Teams up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have gone 69-13 as far as winning their series — that’s 84.1 percent of the time. And road teams that opened 2-0 in a best-of-seven went on to win 22 of 25 series (or 88 percent). So if the Astros go up 2-0, with the next three games in Houston, things start looking pretty dire for Boston.

If the Astros win: If you favor the math, you’ll start banking on an Astros repeat as American League champs. But just remember, one of the teams that dug out from a hole that big was the 2004 Red Sox in the ALCS, and they were down 0-3 before their comeback.

If the Red Sox win: If they win a Price postseason start and simultaneously tie up the series? That sounds like Christmas in October, with the promise of more good things yet to come in Houston.

One key stat to know: According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Astros have homered in 13 straight postseason games, which is tied for the record for consecutive postseason games with a home run. The record they tied was set by … the Houston Astros, but back when they were in the National League, and back in 2001-2004. Will they go one better in their AL incarnation?

The matchup that matters most: How well Cole does against J.D. Martinez in RBI situations. Mookie Betts has five hits in eight at-bats with a walk in his limited opportunities vs. Cole, which sounds like the same problem most of baseball has with Betts, but Cole has been one of baseball’s most effective pitchers with runners on base, allowing a .625 OPS, which ranked as the sixth best in the AL (trailing teammate Justin Verlander, among others). When Betts gets on base, Martinez will have to cash in. The good news? He has a homer in 10 at-bats, so it should be a great matchup.

The prediction: This is supposed to be the postseason of the bullpen or something like that. Sometimes, however, you can look at the starting pitching matchup and figure out one team has the edge. And in this game that appears to be the Astros. Cole is coming off a 12-strikeout wipeout of the Indians while the other guy is 0-9 in 10 playoff starts. I’d love to see Price throw a gem and make this a competitive series heading to Houston, but I think the combination of Cole plus all those righty bats in the Houston lineup that worked 10 walks in Game 1 will be too much for Price and the Red Sox. Houston 6, Boston 3David Schoenfield, ESPN.com



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