By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — David Price is still looking for his first postseason win as a starter. But at least the team Price plays for has finally won a playoff game that he started.
He can thank his bullpen on that front.
The Red Sox lefty lasted only 4.2 innings Sunday night in Boston’s 7-5 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS. He was OK; good not great, but much better than the 0-9 record that gets splashed just about everywhere whenever Price toes the rubber in the playoffs.
Price surrendered four runs off five hits and four walks, striking out four along the way. Although he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning, he put his team in a position to win, which manager Alex Cora made sure to point out following Sunday night’s victory.
“He threw the ball well, actually. The velocity, mixing in his changeup later in the outing,” Cora noted. “We have to clean a few things up but his stuff was good, his command was good, and he gave us a chance to win.”
“We won. That’s my first team win as a starter. Baby steps are baby steps,” Price said after the outing. “I expect to win, but I’m very happy that we won.”
Yes, it’s come to this. We’re just happy when Price doesn’t bury his team in the first two innings.
The Astros hit a few balls hard, but they didn’t beat Price like a drum, which is what we’re used to seeing when he takes the mound in the playoffs. His outing was a mix of good and bad, with more good than bad this time around. Price worked around a pair of one-out walks in the first inning, getting out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts. He wasn’t as fortunate in the second inning, when Carlos Correa beat out an infield single on a misplay by shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Martin Maldonado followed with a double, and they both scored a few batters later when George Springer blooped a double down the right-field line, tying the game at 2-2.
It’s tough to blame Price for those two runs, but the two that Houston scored in the top of the third fall squarely on his left shoulder. Marwin Gonzalez crushed a 3-2 fastball that Price left over the plate and sent it soaring over the Green Monster, putting the Astros on top 4-2.
The Boston offense gave Price a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the third with a three-run double by Jackie Bradley Jr., and he thanked them with a 1-2-3 top of the forth. But Price ran into trouble again in the fifth, and Cora pulled the plug after a two-out walk to Tyler White on four pitches.
But rather than hearing boos rain down from the Fenway Faithful, Price was given a standing ovation as he walked off the mound. It goes to show just how bad Price has been in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely appreciated,” he said of the fan support Sunday night.
What Price really appreciates is the stellar outing that followed by Boston’s relievers. Their bullpen was one of the team’s biggest concerns heading into the postseason, but they were up to the challenge on Sunday night, getting the final 13 outs of the victory. Matt Barnes replaced Price in the fifth, and got Gonzalez swinging to end the threat. He retired Houston in order in the sixth, needing just 15 pitches to get his four outs on the night.
Ryan Brasier came in for the seventh inning and quickly got the first two outs. After Alex Bregman worked a two-out walk, Brasier got Yuli Gurriel to ground into a fielder’s choice.
Starter Rick Porcello was once again called upon to give Alex Cora an inning out of the pen, and he made things look easy. After pinch-hitter Tyler Kemp grounded out after a nine-pitch at-bat, Porcello set down Gonzalez and Correa by way of the K. He needed just three pitches to set down Gonzalez, and five to retire Correa.
The bullpen was on their way to a perfect evening until closer Craig Kimbrel had a few more hiccups in the ninth. He retired the first two batters he faced, but Springer kept Houston’s hopes alive with a two-out double. He scored a batter later when Jose Altuve drove him in with a loud single to left. That brought the tying run to the plate in the always-dangerous Alex Bregman.
That threat didn’t last very long, as Bregman flied out on Kimbrel’s second offering to end the game. After Price departed, the Boston bullpen went above and beyond and the series is now tied 1-1 as it shifts to Houston for the next three games.
“They did an outstanding job and they’ve done it throughout the postseason,” Cora said of the bullpen. “We trust those guys.”
Price didn’t have the outing he would have liked, but he certainly enjoys the end result. He said the Boston bullpen was “tremendous” as they closed out the game, and said it feels great to play a role — however small — in a postseason win.
“You can ask any of my teammates or coaches the last 10 years, all I want to do is win,” said Price. “I came here to win, period. To win a World Series and do it multiple times. That’s what I’m about; I put myself aside. This isn’t about me. I understand the narratives and I deserve those. But this is bigger than David Price. This is about the Boston Red Sox.”
Price wasn’t great on Sunday night, but he wasn’t all-around terrible either. He gave his team an opportunity to win, which as he said, is a baby step in the right direction. It’s not exactly the kind of positive takeaway you’d expect for a player making $30 million, but this is where we are with David Price.
He just better be thanking his bullpen all the way to Houston. The spotlight will no doubt be back on the lefty whenever he makes his next start, but for now, we’re viewing his short outing as a positive. Maybe next time, he won’t have to rely so much on the bullpen.
But at least we have a reason to feel better about Price, and a reason to feel a whole lot better about the Boston bullpen.