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David Price will start ALCS Game 2 for Red Sox

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Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports that Red Sox lefty David Price will start Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros. Chris Sale will start Game 1.

Price, who has had very little success pitching in the postseason, struggled in his ALDS Game 2 start against the Yankees. He lasted just 1 2/3 innings, serving up three runs on three hits with two walks and no strikeouts. That bumped his career postseason ERA, spanning 75 innings, to 5.28.

Generally speaking, we often make too big a deal over a particular player’s postseason struggles. Clayton Kershaw, for example, had a career 4.55 ERA after the 2016 playoffs and was thought to have had some kind of a mental block when the spotlight was on him. But he had a few really good starts last year in the playoffs (as well as two poor ones). Despite its increased significance in our minds, the playoffs are still beholden to statistical principles. Price’s 75 playoff innings, or Kershaw’s 89 innings through 2016, still constitutes a relatively small sample size so they’re not very illuminating. As always, this XKCD comic is relevant:

That being said, players are human and it’s worth wondering when narrative becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Might Price, who pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs last year, be putting more pressure on himself to perform? Could he be doubting himself as he pitches? We obviously can’t measure psychological aspects like this, but it is an interesting consideration.

Still, when Price takes the mound on Sunday, he should be expected to pitch closer to his career 3.25 ERA and more specifically his 3.74 ERA over the last three seasons rather than his career 5.28 postseason ERA. Adjust up a bit to factor in the increased level of competition in the playoffs. Anything can happen, but the modal outcome is two or three runs over four or five innings. If Price gets trampled by the Astros’ offense, we’re going to continue hearing about how he can’t handle the big stage. If he tosses a gem, the narrative will go mum until the next time he falters.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.