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The day David Price was a dominant postseason starter

Rob Bradford
October 06, 2018 - 10:21 am

It's the start people seem to avert their eyes away from.

Eight innings. Two runs. Loss.

That was the day David Price proved that he could actually make a start in the postseason and pitch really, really well.

"He dealt," remembered Steve Pearce, who hit second in the lineup that went up against Price and his Tigers back on Oct. 5, 2014.

The criticism of Price's performances in the postseason is fair. When your teams have lost all nine of your starts while posting a 5.74 ERA than criticism and skepticism are going to come your way. That's why the pitcher -- who looks to change the narrative Saturday night against the Yankees -- means it when he told recently, "I could go 35-0 in the regular season with a zero (ERA) and it wouldn’t matter. I need to win in October. That’s that. Regular season means nothing for me."

But the average Red Sox fan probably has very little recollection that Price has been the kind of postseason starter everyone has been waiting for. At least for one day.

In the third game of the American League Division Series between the Orioles and Tigers, Price went out and shutout Baltimore for the first five innings before Nelson Cruz touched him up for a two-run homer. When the outing was done the lefty had thrown 112 pitches, giving up just five hits while striking out six. But those two runs were one too many, with the O's claiming a 2-1 win over Detroit and its starting pitcher.

Leading up to that start there hadn't been the clamoring we here now. Price had started just four postseason games, with mixed results. He had turned in a pair of decent outings against Texas giving up a combined six runs over 12 2/3 innings. But there was also that start against the Red Sox for Tampa Bay in 2013 when he seven runs over seven innings at Fenway Park.

"He’s a tough pitcher," Pearce said. "He’s a good pitcher. When he’s on the mound we have the utmost confidence that he’s going to deliver because he’s got the stuff and he’s been there before. Personally, I love when he’s out there because I’ve faced him at his toughest. He’s tough to hit.

"When he’s working both sides of the plate with different pitchers, keeping you off balance, he’s tough. When he’s getting ahead you’re 0-1, 0-2 in every at-bat. Especially with pitches you can’t do anything with because he’s just painting. It’s not a fun day at the plate."

Along with the start against Baltimore perhaps the biggest surge of optimism regarding Price is what he did last postseason as a reliever (not allowing a run over 6 2/3 innings). There is also his evolution as a pitcher this season, ending the regular season at 16-7 with a 3.58 ERA with the Red Sox going 22-8 in his starts.

But there are always memories such as the 2016 ALDS start in Cleveland, along with those collective numbers as a playoff starter. What will change that conversation? A repeat performance of his outing four years and one day ago, with a win tacked on this time around.

"You can look at it all you want to, it doesn’t matter to me. I know what he has," Pearce said. "When he’s on nobody hits him. He’s had days in the playoffs where he hasn’t gotten any run support. When he takes the mound in Game 2 I have to believe we’re favored to win that game. That’s just myself personally because I know what he has and when he’s dealing nobody hits with him."