By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Heading into this postseason, the only optimism one could have mustered for the outlook of David Price could have only been borne out of raw hope. There just wasn’t anything there, no evidence, no faint light, that the 33-year-old would be able to figure out his October problems.
And when he took the mound in the ALDS against the Yankees and lasted just 1.2 innings while promptly serving up two homers and allowing three runs, it appeared as though his stretch of postseason futility was only going to continue through 2018.
If the Red Sox were going to win the World Series, they were going to have to do it without much help from their $30 million pitcher.
But, oh, what a difference a couple of weeks can make.
Standing on the mound on Sunday night in Los Angeles, Price was on the verge of completing one of the more unlikely transformations of any player in baseball history. On the field in the eighth inning, Price was finishing up his second World Series start, and his third World Series appearance.
And though his night on Sunday ended with a walk, here’s what his overall statistics looked like in the biggest games of the year: A 2-0 record and a 1.98 ERA over 13.2 innings pitched. The Red Sox won his two World Series starts, just as they won both of his starts in the ALCS.
All told, after that bad start vs. the Yankees, Price went 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA over four starts and one relief appearance. That includes six shutout innings in the clinching game of the ALCS, and seven innings of one-run ball in the clinching game of the World Series. He was opposed in those games by Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, a duo of pitchers with four Cy Youngs and two MVP Awards between them. Price outperformed them both.
The Red Sox won the World Series, and David Price was not a passenger. He was the driver.
Price’s unbelievable turnaround was significant in and of itself, but it became even more important amid Chris Sale’s mysterious struggles. Sale was hospitalized due to a stomach illness after a lackluster start in Boston’s Game 1 loss in the ALCS, and from that point forward, the ace who missed most of the final two months of the season was no longer reliable for Boston.
Without Sale, the Red Sox might have been doomed — if it hadn’t been for Price.
To be sure, an 11-3 postseason record for the Red Sox was not the result of one man. In fact, the depth of the contributions from the Red Sox roster was absolutely remarkable. From the steady performance of stars like J.D. Martinez, to the rise of relievers like Joe Kelly and Ryan Brasier, to clutch hits from the likes of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Steve Pearce, the contributions were distributed evenly up and down the roster. That is why the Red Sox are champions.
But Price was among the most significant contributors, and that has to be considered the most surprising development of this past month of baseball.
Price’s previous postseason struggles are well-known. They came to define him and his entire career as a member of the Red Sox. Nearly every session with the media — whether it came during spring training, during the summer, during the postseason or during the offseason — circled back to those postseason struggles, to his lack of wins as a starting pitcher in the playoffs. The questions, naturally, always seemed to perturb Price.
That changed this month. Instead of getting defensive, instead of fighting against perception, Price embraced it. He used the word “failure.” He said plainly that he can’t explain it. He said he deserved the tag that had been placed on him. He stopped correcting reporters to inform them that he did record postseason wins as a reliever.
He admitted his issues, he faced them head-on, and he decided it was time to change the narrative.
So it was perfectly fitting that on Sunday night, in a clinching scenario, it was Price on the mound for Boston. Of course, he turned in perhaps his most masterful outing in a Red Sox uniform.
After allowing a home run on his first pitch of the night, Price was nearly unhittable. He allowed a single in the second and a one-out “triple” in the third, which was just a routine fly ball that J.D. Martinez couldn’t see in right field.
After that, though, Price was nearly perfect. He pitched out of the jam in the third, inducing a harmless groundout and a fly out in foul ground. Those two outs kicked off a stretch of 14 consecutive Dodgers sat down by Price. He delivered 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
He was rolling with such dominance that manager Alex Cora decided to let Price bat in the top of the seventh, with two on and two out, and with the Red Sox leading 4-1. For a manager, the typical move in that situation is to send a real hitter to the plate in an effort to stretch that lead. You pat your starting pitcher on the shoulder, tell him he did a great job, and tell him it’s time to let the bullpen finish the job.
But Cora couldn’t do that. On the night of David Price’s life, the manager let his left-hander ride out his start as long as it would last.
Price responded by mowing down the Dodgers in the bottom of the seventh, requiring seven pitches to get through the frame.
“David stepped up tonight,” Sale said. “This is the second game that he just flat-out won for us. It’s hard to believe what he’s done this World Series. I mean it seemed like he was out there every day, at least warming up. He put his heart and soul on the line for us, and he deserves it.”
The manager let Price keep going in the eighth, with the Sox leading 5-1, but fatigue finally set in for the pitcher making his third appearance of the series. Price walked Chris Taylor to lead off the eighth.
It prompted Cora to make the trip from the dugout, allowing Price to walk off the mound with the satisfaction of having turned in one of the finest performances of his entire career in the clinching game of the World Series.
And though this game was played some 3,000 miles away from Fenway Park, Price was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd. Whether those fans were wearing Red Sox gear or whether they were adorned in Dodger blue, they all stood to show their appreciation for what Price had just done.
From there, the Red Sox’ championship victory was a mere formality. Joe Kelly and Chris Sale combined to strike out the next six Dodgers batters, and it was officially time to celebrate in L.A.
Every Red Sox player rushed the mound to celebrate. Each one of them can rightfully feel as though he contributed in a major way to the title. But nobody can even come close to feeling the satisfaction that David Price felt. The entirety of the David Price era, regardless of what happens in the following four years, will include “World Series Champion” on its opening line.
He probably deserved the World Series MVP Award, which ended up going to Pearce. But that hardly matters. What Price did in this World Series and this postseason won’t ever be forgotten in Boston.
“It took longer than I hoped it would, longer than I expected it to,” Price said on the field after the World Series-clinching win. “But to have this feeling right now, it’s all worth it.”