Postseason redemption sweet for David Price: ‘This is why I came to Boston’

LOS ANGELES — Apparently, David Price can pitch in the postseason. Apparently, David Price can pitch every day in the postseason.

Price started and won Game 2 of the World Series. He got two outs in relief in Game 3. He warmed up in the bullpen for a potential appearance in Game 4. And in Game 5, he turned in his masterpiece, holding the Dodgers to three hits and one run over seven innings to carry the Red Sox to a championship-clinching 5-1 win.

“He was dominant,” World Series MVP Steve Pearce said after the game. “We love when he's on the mound. When he takes it, he's a bulldog. He competes. And I couldn't be any happier for him. It was an awesome performance, and he shut one of the best teams down, and he pitched in a game-clinching World Series game. That's the guy we want on the mound, and he delivered.”

Manager Alex Cora knew he could rely on Price.

“He was available the whole time — the whole time — from the Division Series to the Championship Series to the World Series,” Cora said. “There was a text: ‘I’m ready for tomorrow. Count on me. Use me.’

“I’m very proud of him.”

As recently as 10 days ago, few would have imagined Price as a 2018 World Series hero. Though long one of the best pitchers in the majors in the regular season, the 33-year-old entered October with a reputation for postseason meltdowns and did little to shake it in his first two playoff outings.

After he allowed three runs in a 1 ⅔ inning Game 2 start against the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, Price was greeted with ironic cheers and “M-V-P” chants at Yankee Stadium. After a shaky outing in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros, Price owned a 6.16 ERA and an 0-9 record in 11 career postseason starts.

But Cora kept his faith in the lefty, and while playing catch with Red Sox catching coordinator Jason Varitek before Game 4, Price tweaked the positioning of his hands during his delivery, a change he said helped correct his timing and allowed him to “get that good angle on the baseball.” He continued working on it while warming up in the bullpen that night, and after the game said he expected the adjustment to help him in his Game 5 start.

It did.

Price, on short rest, threw six shutout innings in ALCS Game 5 to help the Sox secure the AL pennant. He maintained his momentum in a six-inning, two-run win in Game 2 of the World Series, and again in the deciding Game 5. Price now is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA over his last three postseason starts.

“My confidence was never altered, through however many seasons I've been to the playoffs, however many times I've failed in October, however many times I failed in the regular season or against the Yankees,” Price said. “I always had belief in myself and my abilities. To be able to to come through on this stage and in October for myself and for my teammates, I know I can do it now. It's just good to know.”

J.D. Martinez, who also played beside Price when they were with the Detroit Tigers, has heard the jeers.

“I think for all the haters,” Martinez said, holding his index finger over his lips, “it's time to be quiet.”

Price has had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the Red Sox’s media and fanbase since he joined the club on a seven-year, $217 million free-agent deal before the 2016 season. Players with huge contracts tend to draw outsized criticism, and as recently as the ALDS, Boston sports-talk radio was abuzz with chatter that the Sox should eat most of Price’s contract  so they could trade him and his postseason struggles.

While Price never admitted that he was upset about his October reputation and the related discourse in Boston, some of his comments after the World Series win suggested otherwise.

“To answer that question in spring training day and day and day, and over and over and over, anytime it got to September, playoffs — I hold all the cards now, and that feels so good,” he said. “I can't tell you how good it feels to hold that trump card. And you guys have had it for a long time. You've played that card extremely well. But you don't have it anymore, none of you do, and that feels really good.”

Said Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski: “You can see it has been a big relief off his back. He had a very successful career, and to all of a sudden be in a position where he could get that final thing off his back, and be successful in the postseason, I am absolutely thrilled for him.”

Price walked off the mound Sunday to a standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd. Twenty days after hearing ironic cheers at Yankee Stadium, Price earned begrudging ones in Los Angeles. Two big World Series wins will do that for a guy.

“This is why I came to Boston,” Price said after the win. “This is what I envisioned — not starting Game 2 and coming out of the bullpen in Game 3 and all that, but this feeling right here.

“It took longer than I hoped it would, longer than I expected it to, but to have this feeling right now, it was all worth it.”

Follow Berg on Twitter @OGTedBerg


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