Tomase: No pressure or anything, but it's all on David Price now

John Tomase
October 14, 2018 - 11:07 am
David Price

Paul Rutherford/USA Today Sports

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Here's a sentence no Red Sox fan wants to read: The fate of the season rests in the hands of David Price.

Their Game 1 worst-case scenario came to pass when ace Chris Sale couldn't find the plate in a 7-2 loss to the Astros marred by more than a dozen walks and hit batters.

And so now New England holds its collective breath as Price, winless in every postseason start he has ever made in his life, takes the mound on Sunday for Game 2 as the first line of defense against a 2-0 deficit before the series returns to Houston for Games 3, 4, and 5 -- possibly never to return.

Now might be a good time to practice belly breathing or mindfulness or ruby slipper clicking or whatever strategies you use to combat uneasiness-slash-anxiety-slash-PANIC.

When manager Alex Cora announced Price as his Game 2 starter, this is the eventuality we feared. Price takes the mound before an ostensibly friendly crowd needing little provocation to turn hostile, with a margin for error skinnier than Astro's collar.

Even if Price gets the quick hook that spared him true carnage vs. the Yankees last weekend, that still leaves the Red Sox in a dire predicament, because Saturday night offered a reminder that every extra inning their bullpen is asked to throw increases the odds of a meltdown by . . . let me crunch the numbers . . . 98,000 percent.

This probably isn't fair, but the chances of Price delivering feel nonexistent. Cora attributed his struggles in Game 2 last weekend not to playoff failures past, but the Yankees simply having his number.

If you want to bet on that, go ahead, but I wouldn't use actual money. Price spiked his first fastball in front of home plate, which is the equivalent of you or I winding up to throw a rock as far as we can and burying it in the sand at our feet.

His body language was terrible, all grimaces and neck rubs and hand flexing and 45 seconds between pitches, almost like he was resigned to a mediocre performance. He overthrew all night, leaving his fastball, changeup, and cutter looking basically the same. That's not good eats.

I'll admit feeling some sympathy during his Saturday press conference, when he sounded subdued, passive, and maybe even defeated while answering questions he has, in fairness, been asked a million times. There's nothing left to say, we (and he?) all fear, because Sunday's just going to bring more of the same.

"I don't know. That's a tough question. I don't really have an answer," Price said when asked what he's learned about playoff baseball. "I feel like I've given some answers the past eight years. But I really don't have an answer for it. But I mean, it's different baseball. It is. It's fun. I enjoy it. Haven't been successful the way that I know I can be and will be, but I look forward to getting out there."

It's amazing how quickly a massive payroll and magical season can spiral. One bad start from Sale and the Red Sox suddenly feel on the brink.

Into that swirling maelstrom of potential devastation steps the pitcher we fear is least-equipped to handle it. Maybe Price will surprise us. Or maybe the defending World Series champs who crush left-handed pitching and will be opposing him with legit All-Star Gerrit Cole coming off a 12-strikeout win will overwhelm him. Sometimes the most obvious outcome simply comes to pass.

The Red Sox are playing for their lives, and David Price is leaning over the railing with a life preserver. We'll know soon enough if he saves them or simply tumbles over the edge and joins them in need of rescue.

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