By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – By all accounts, David Price was motivated. The $217 million man knew that his performance in a Red Sox uniform would be under a microscope at all times, but never more than when he’d eventually get the ball in a playoff game.
That opportunity came on Friday afternoon in Cleveland. Instead of proving all the doubters wrong, he turned in the worst postseason start of his career.
Price lasted just 3.1 innings on Friday, surrendering six hits, five runs (all earned), and one costly three-run homer that put the Red Sox in a hole early. It only got worse from there, and after the 6-0 loss, the Red Sox find themselves trailing 2-0 in the series.
David Price looked excellent in the first inning, retiring the Indians in order on just eight pitches – seven of which were strikes.
Things still looked OK in the second, when he allowed a one-out, ground-ball single and then an infield single on a chopper behind the mound. The Indians put a run on the board when Brandon Guyer muscled a bloop single into center field.
They were hits, but they came on weak contact, and Price’s “stuff” (as John Farrell would say) was looking good early. It didn’t appear to be the biggest jam in the world. Then Lonnie Chisenhall stepped up.
Price threw a 94 mph fastball on the inner edge of the plate, but Chisenhall knew it was coming and turned on it, sending a line drive to right field. It stayed up just enough to clear the fence, plating three runs and ensuring that Price would not be having his postseason redemption on this day.
Due to a quad injury, Corey Kluber entered the game with a questionable status. His performance was anything but.
He kept the Red Sox guessing all day long, allowing just three hits – none for extra bases – over seven-plus innings of work.
Though his night ended on a down note after he walked and hit a batter in the eighth, neither runner ended up scoring, keeping Kluber’s stat line clean on the evening.
Game 1 was won largely by Cleveland’s bullpen. Game 2 was all about the starting pitcher.
Even with the poor postseason resume, this was by far Price’s shortest start, with his previous postseason low being six innings. In eight previous postseason starts, he averaged 6.2 innings per start. The five earned runs represented the second-most he’s allowed in a playoff appearance.
By the end of the outing, his postseason ERA rose to 5.53, which is 2.32 runs higher than his career ERA in the regular season. Clearly, he’s got an October problem, and clearly, it hasn’t gone away.
The stories will continue, especially if he doesn’t get another chance to pitch this postseason.
At the same time, the blame can’t fall entirely on Price. The Boston offense couldn’t do anything at all in this one, and the expectation heading into the playoffs was that the team would only go as far as the offense carried it. The three veterans in the Boston lineup — Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez — went a combined 0-for-11 in this one, and the team as a whole mustered just three hits in 29 at-bats for a .103 team average.
Pedroia and Brock Holt also get some attention here for some malfunctioning leather.
Well, it’s not ideal.
Certainly, to win three games in a row would not be an unimaginable feat for the Red Sox. They did win 11 straight games not long ago. But the margin for error will be as small as can be once the series shifts to Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.
The bar for Clay Buchholz has been set very low by Price and Rick Porcello, so if Buchholz can put together a reasonably effective outing, and if the backs-against-the-wall urgency kicks in, then the Red Sox can reasonably be expected to win a baseball game against the Indians and starter Josh Tomlin.
The Red Sox didn’t enter the postseason as World Series favorites, but they were most certainly in the mix of teams that appeared to have the talent and makeup to win it all. Exiting the postseason without having won even one game would represent a disappointing finish to a rejuvenating season.
The pressure will be on, Sunday at 4 p.m.