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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.

Phillies-Mets could get contentious tonight

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As the Mets were wrapping up a 9-0 shellacking of the Phillies on Tuesday night, reliever Jacob Rhame threw a pitch up and in to first baseman Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning. The pitch sailed behind Hoskins’ back. The slugger wasn’t happy about the scare, understandably. Players began to trickle out of their respective dugouts, but a fracas was avoided.

Hoskins was skeptical that Rhame simply missed his spot. Per MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, Hoskins said, “He didn’t miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I’ll let you decide. I would assume teams are pitching me in because that’s where they think they can get me out, and that’s fine. That’s part of the game. Again, I think most guys are capable of pitching inside and not missing that bad.”

Teammate Bryce Harper said, “I don’t get it. I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it’s baseball and you’re going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the [butt]. Not in the head. You throw 98, it’s scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That’s bigger than the game.”

Indeed, two Mets were hit by pitches on Monday night. José Álvarez hit Jeff McNeil in the seventh inning, which advanced a base runner. In the very next at-bat, Juan Nicasio hit Pete Alonso with a first-pitch fastball. It was obvious neither was intentional as the Phillies were only down two runs and hitting both batters advanced base runners and led to runs scoring. It is less obvious that Rhame’s pitch to Hoskins was unintentional, but he showed empathy in his post-game comments. Rhame said, “When you accidentally sail one, it’s probably pretty scary. I’d get [angry], too.”

Will Wednesday night’s series finale be contentious? Despite being “fairly upset,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, “We do not retaliate, and we do not throw at anybody intentionally,” Jake Seiner of the Associated Press reports.

Mets manager Mickey Calloway didn’t give as straight an answer. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Calloway said, “I think at this point, you just go out there and beat people, and win. … For now, I don’t feel like anything has been intentional at us that has warranted anything from our side.” If that changes, however, Calloway said, “They’re going to have each other’s backs.”

Hopefully, neither side decides to take justice into their own hands. But, welcome to the NL East in 2019. The Mets lead the Phillies by one game, and the Braves and Nationals by 1.5 games. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out division fight all year long.