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Suddenly, Red Sox Looking Vulnerable

October 8, 2018

Nathan Eovaldi will start for the Red Sox in tonight's pivotal Game 3 against the Yankees in New York. AP PHOTO Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

BOSTON -- It would have been virtually impossible to follow the Boston Red Sox during the regular season and be unaware of the “Win Wall.”

After each victory, Red Sox first-year manager Alex Cora posted a game photo on a wall in his office to represent the win. It happened 108 times as Boston rolled to the best record in Major League Baseball.

A beautified replica of the wall has been placed in the first base side concourse at Fenway Park for fans to enjoy, admire and take photos in front of.

However, those 108 wins are old news. They don’t seem to matter much now that it’s October, it’s the postseason, and it’s a clean slate for each team still alive. There’s a word that could be spelled out on that concourse wall to give a more accurate depiction of the current state of the Red Sox: Vulnerable.

Yes, the Red Sox, that once unstoppable machine that seemingly had everything going right from April to September, now has some soul searching to do. They are locked in a 1-1 best-of five American League Division Series with the rival New York Yankees as the series shifts to the Bronx for Game 3 on Monday night. Boston’s backs aren’t quite up against the wall yet, but doubt has undeniably crept into the minds of every card-holding member of Red Sox Nation.

The Yankees were a wire-to-wire 6-2 winner over the Sox on Saturday night at Fenway. Aaron Judge crushed a gargantuan 445-foot home run in the top of the first inning off serial postseason dud David Price and the game’s fate seemed determined. Price once again shriveled in the big moment, lasting just 1.2 innings while allowing three runs on three hits and two walks. He fell to 0-9 in the postseason as a starter and his career postseason ERA ballooned to 5.28.

It was uncomfortable to watch.

The vaunted Red Sox offense, meanwhile, was largely silenced by Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees’ bullpen. In fact, since scoring five runs on J.A. Happ in the first three innings of Game 1, Boston has been held to two runs in the last 14 innings.

In the interview room after Game 2, Cora had the look of someone puzzled and searching for answers on how to get his team back on track.

“We’ll make adjustments,” Cora said. “Like I said (Friday), it takes 25, 26, 27 guys to keep moving.”

The reality is that the Sox won’t be moving very far if Price can’t figure out a way to eliminate his demons. We can give the benefit of the doubt to ace Chris Sale, but after that Cora can’t count on any Boston starting pitcher for a quality outing. Price was paid a ton of money to be that guy, and the sample size is strongly pointing in the direction that he never will be.

Cora was asked if the team and Price would be better off with the lefty permanently in the bullpen in the postseason.

“No, no. He’s one of our starters. Just a bad outing today,” Cora said. “It just so happened it wasn’t his day. He didn’t make pitches. We trust him, he’s bounced back before. We’ll talk to him to make a few adjustments and we’ll go from there.”

Price, looking like a defeated man in that same interview room, offered his take.

“I just want to win. That’s it,” he said. “My main goal is to win in the playoffs, to win a World Series. Whatever I have to do to help us do that, I’m fine with. ... But I know I’m more than capable of winning games as a starter in October. That’s what I look forward to doing.”

Who can Boston count on right now? Ideally, not the bullpen, which nearly blew Game 1 after the Sox were staked to an early 5-0 lead. Boston held on for a less-than-impressive 5-4 win. The pen also surrendered three more runs in 7.1 innings Saturday night. Starters Rick Porcello and Nate Eovaldi don’t exactly warrant confidence, especially considering Cora didn’t want to commit to either as a Game 3 starter after Game 2. Finally, on Sunday, Cora named Eovaldi, a former Yankee, the Game 3 starter.

Even MVP contender Mookie Betts is just 1-for-7 for the Red Sox thus far in the ALDS.

That’s a stark contrast from the feel exuding from the New York clubhouse. The Yankees look confident, spry and healthy. Judge (5-for-9, two home runs) has been a one-man world beater in the series, and slugging catcher Gary Sanchez found his stroke with a pair of moonshots on Saturday night.

“Now we’re playing the really exciting baseball,” said Sanchez. “So to have an opportunity now to keep on playing and produce at this time, it’s actually more important.”

The Yankees get to play on their field, in front of their fans and with their ace on the hill Monday night. That would be 24-year-old fireballer Luis Severino, who went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 220 strikeouts in the regular season. In a short series, Game 3′s importance can’t be stressed enough.

For the Red Sox and their fans, the picture of what winning looks like became quite clear for six months. Now, the team is providing an image of what vulnerability looks like.

It’s not nearly as pretty.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone

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