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Alex Cora explains deciding factor in starting David Price vs. Astros in ALCS Game 2

John Tomase
October 11, 2018 - 5:09 pm

The way Alex Cora sees it, David Price's struggles in Game 2 of the American League Division Series weren't a playoff thing. They were a Yankees thing.

With the Yankees free to listen to "New York, New York," for the rest of the winter, that's no longer an issue, which is why Cora is comfortable starting David Price against the Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS.

"I mean, the whole season he kind of struggled against the Yankees," Cora said. "It just seems like as far as game-planning or matching up with them, it didn't work this year."

The Astros, Cora believes, are an entirely different story.

Cora has seen it from both sides. Last year as Astros bench coach, he watched Price win his only start against Houston before tossing four straight dominating relief outings between the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

This year, Price was almost as good, limiting the Astros to a .159 batting average in a pair of starts, with 17 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

"I saw what happened last year against the Astros," Cora said. "He was actually the best pitcher in that series last year. I know he was coming out of the bullpen, but what he did was good to see, now. I think he's going to make some adjustments and he'll be fine.

Cora rattled through Price's recent appearances against the Astros: a win in Houston last year. A win in Houston this year. A September loss that saw him strike out 10 in 6 1/3 innings while allowing only two runs.

"I saw him last year, I think it was Father's Day, he pitched against Houston in Houston and he pitched well," Cora said. "I saw him in the playoffs against the Astros. He pitched well. This year, he pitched in Houston that Saturday, he pitched well against them. He pitched here against the Astros, and pitched well again so I know how good he is. I know he's pitched well against them. I trust the guy."

Cora broke down some of what ailed Price when he lasted just 1 2/3 innings vs. the Yankees, allowing two homers. He boiled it down to predictability and not avoiding the hitter's strengths. Case in point: Gary Sanchez's homer off Price in the second.

"We talk about the Sanchez pitch, that it was a good pitch down and away, but I think for that particular guy that wasn't a good pitch because that's the pitch he's been crushing for the last month," Cora said. "We saw it here against (Brian Johnson), 2-0 fastball down and away, and he hit a home run on that Friday night. And then he did it to David, and then he did it to Eduardo (Rodriguez). It's just a matter of going to that fastball to different spots and when he's doing that he's at his best.

"I don't know if it was command or overthrowing or mechanics, but it seems we were attacking the same area over and over again. When we do that to big league hitters they're going to take advantage of it. Velocity was fine. Movement wasn't there. That's something we'll talk about. It was already addressed, actually. He just needs to get back to be that guy who pitched in the middle of the season."

That Price wasn't overwhelming, but he wasn't predictable. With plus command of his fastball, cutter, and changeup, Price excelled at keeping lineups off balance.

"It wasn't about the different stuff," Cora said. "It was about location and attacking guys in different ways. I think it was after the Cleveland game, David pitched against the Yankees here and he was this pitcher. Then against Houston he did something different. Then against the Indians he did something different. And that's what he can do. Kind of like Rick (Porcello). Like I told him, 'Don't forget that part of you. You are diverse and we can attack guys in different ways.' We'll see how it goes."