Boston’s Price faces Yankees’ Tanaka in Game 2

BOSTON — Call it the monkey on his back. Or the albatross around his neck.

No matter how you say it, David Price takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Division Series hoping to finally get over that elusive hump. He also will to try to pitch the Red Sox to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

The left-hander, in the third year of a seven-year, $217 million contract, is 2-8 in the postseason. But both of those wins came in relief, and he takes an 0-8 record and 5.84 ERA as a postseason starter into his matchup with Masahiro Tanaka Saturday night at Fenway Park.

Friday night, the Red Sox got a three-run homer from J.D. Martinez in the first inning and built a 5-0 lead before holding on for a 5-4 series-opening victory over their rivals.

“Just another game,” Price said before Friday night’s game. “Don’t treat it any differently than any other game I’ve been a part of this year or in my career. That’s what I need to do tomorrow. That’s what I look forward to doing.”

Asked if that’s different from what he’s done in the past, Price flashed some humor, saying, “No, I just don’t have to answer for you guys. I’ve been asked that quite a while now. I really can’t put my finger on it. That was my generic answer.”

Price went 16-7 with a 3.58 ERA this season, and he is 15-14 with a 4.90 ERA in 42 career appearances — 41 starts — against the Yankees.

He is 8-8 with a 4.83 ERA against the Yankees in New York, and in two starts in the Bronx this season, Price is 0-2 and allowed 12 earned runs — eight home runs — in 8 2/3 innings.

That is not a factor in these playoffs. At Fenway this season, he left his first start against New York after an inning with a numbness problem in his pitching hand. But he gave up two runs on four hits in six innings against the Yankees on Aug. 5.

Overall against the Yankees this season, Price is 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA in four starts.

Tanaka, who went 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA during the regular season, has an impressive 8-4 record and 4.35 ERA in 18 career starts against the Red Sox. He is 4-2 with a 3.90 ERA in nine starts at Fenway.

But this year has told a different story. He went 1-0 against Boston in 2018 but had an ERA of 7.58 in four starts against the Red Sox, yielding six home runs in 19 innings. His one victory over the Red Sox this season came back on April 11, and he gave up six runs in five innings in that game at Fenway Park.

He also struggled in his final two starts of the regular season, yielding eight earned runs on 14 hits in eight innings. He went 0-2 in those two starts after two straight scoreless appearances.

Tanaka is 2-2 with a 1.44 ERA in four postseason starts, throwing seven shutout innings against Cleveland in last year’s ALDS before posting a 1-1 record and 1.38 ERA against the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Tanaka talked about the playoff atmosphere he expects at Fenway on Saturday night.

“I think I have an idea that it’s going to be intense,” he said through an interpreter. “But me personally I haven’t experienced the Yankees versus Red Sox playoff atmosphere yet. So, you know, at this point I’m sure it’s going to be intense.”

Martinez is 8-for-18 with three home runs against Tanaka, while Rafael Devers is 4-for-10 (.400), Andrew Benintendi 8-for-24 (.333) and Mookie Betts 13-for-42 (.310) with two long balls. But Christian Vazquez is 2-for-13 (.154), Jackie Bradley Jr. 5-for-32 (.156), Ian Kinsler 3-for-19 (.158) with a homer and Mitch Moreland 5-for-23 (.217).

The current Yankees roster is hitting a combined .318 (97-for-305) against Price. Luke Voit is 3-for-5 (.600) with two homers, Miguel Andujar 4-for-8 (.500), Gary Sanchez 6-for-13 (.462) with five home runs, Austin Romine 7-for-16 (.438), Didi Gregorius 13-for-35 (.371) and Giancarlo Stanton 6-for-19 (.316). Aaron Judge is 2-for-11 (.182) and Aaron Hicks 7-for-33 (.231).

The Yankees suffered the loss of Aaron Hicks in the fourth inning of Game 1. The center fielder left with a tight hamstring after collecting a walk and single in two plate appearances. Brett Gardner replaced Hicks, who was still being evaluated. He missed time with the same injury in the final week of the season.

“He’ll get examined further tomorrow, and have an MRI and everything,” said manager Aaron Boone. “He felt like it might have been cramping, so we’ll just have to see. I haven’t personally spoken to him yet since he’s come out of the game.”

The Red Sox used Chris Sale and five relievers — including scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello — in nailing down Friday night’s win.

Sale, who had pitched just 17 innings since July 27 because of left shoulder inflammation, worked 5 1/3 innings and struck out eight in getting his first career postseason win. It was also the first victory as a starter by any member of the current Boston pitching staff.

“He did an outstanding job for us,” said manager Alex Cora. “Gave us a chance to win the game.”

Said Boone, whose team stranded 10: “I thought he was good. You know, not his dominant self necessarily, but I thought he did a really nice job of mixing his pitches, changing speeds. His changeup, slider, were a factor.”