When pitcher David Price was introduced as the Boston Red Sox‘s new $217 million toy last December, he said something the future would either vindicate or bring back to haunt him.       

“I think I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox,” he told reporters during his introductory press conference.

Now, the quote is sneaking up behind Price to say “Boo!” in his ear.

The left-hander did not last long in his first postseason game with the franchise: a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday. Boston manager John Farrell pulled him after he allowed six hits, two walks and four earned runs while recording only 10 outs. Price had a fifth run tacked on to his line after one of his inherited runners scored, which did this to his career postseason ERA:

  • Before: 5.12
  • After: 5.54

The Red Sox could have lived with this if Rick Porcello had led the club to a win with a strong performance in Game 1 Thursday. But that didn’t pan out. In order to bounce back and avoid an 0-2 hole, the Red Sox at least needed good innings out of Price. They needed to be great innings if Indians right-hander Corey Kluber turned his Klubot mode to 11 in the first postseason start of his career.  

Naturally, that’s what happened. Seemingly anticipating that Red Sox hitters would be sitting curveball after Cleveland’s hook-heavy attack in Game 1, Kluber went right at them with two-seamers and overpowered them. He struck out seven and scattered the only three hits the Red Sox got in Game 2.

Congrats to Kluber on his brand-new 0.00 postseason ERA. Wouldn’t you know, Price had one of those once. Eight years ago, he made his first foray into October baseball with three scoreless appearances in the American League Championship Series againstwho else?the Red Sox.

But that was ages ago. Price has dominated in the regular season, punctuated by a 3.21 career ERA and an American League Cy Young Award in 2012. But whether he’s been wearing a Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays or Red Sox uniform, he just can’t carry that success into October. And Katie Sharp of River Ave. Blues highlights how, lately, he hasn’t escaped the opposite of success:

When Eno Sarris of FanGraphs dug into what’s gone wrong for Price in the postseason, he found in part that the quality of his competition has gotten tougher. But this is, of course, a fact of life for all pitchers who find themselves playing in October. It’s on them to overcome it.

One reason Price hasn’t done that is because he gets hurt at the worst times. He’s normally good at cracking down with runners in scoring position, allowing just a .240 batting average in the regular season. According to Baseball Savant, that figure jumps to .349 in his postseason outings since 2010.

Cleveland boosted that figure by going 2-for-3 against Price with runners in scoring position in Game 2. The big blow was the seed Lonnie Chisenhall sent just over the right field fence for a three-run homer that made it 4-0 in the second inning.

The one silver lining to take away from Price’s latest October flop is he was at least making decent pitches in that momentum-swinging, gut-punching second inning. All four of the hits he gave up came on pitches that were right on the edges of the strike zone.

While we’re on the topic of silver linings, the Red Sox have others to point to. The big one is that they’re not dead yet. Math confirms this, as the Indians have only two of the three wins they need to advance.

There’s also the fact this series is now shifting to Boston, where the Red Sox were 47-34 this season, for Game 3 Sunday. The return to Fenway Park should be especially beneficial to the Red Sox’s cold offense. Red Sox hitters had an .858 OPS at home compared to .762 on the road.

Facing Josh Tomlin in Game 3 could also awaken the offense. After seeing all sorts of power from Trevor Bauer and Kluber in Games 1 and 2, Tomlin’s 80-something heat will be a welcome change. The Red Sox could add to the whopping 36 homers he’s already allowed this year.

It’s unlikely the Red Sox can come back from their 0-2 hole, but it’s not impossible. Teams have done it before, even in instances where they’ve been outplayed worse than the Red Sox. Game 2 was a blowout, but Game 1 was an intense one-run contest either team could have won. If the San Francisco Giants could come back over the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 and the Blue Jays could do it over the Texas Rangers last year, the Red Sox can do it to the Indians in 2016.

If it does happen, Price is one guy who may have no part in it. Assuming Farrell doesn’t change his plans, Clay Buchholz will pitch Game 3. If necessary, Eduardo Rodriguez will take Game 4 and Porcello Game 5. If Price appears again in this series, it will likely be in relief.

To his credit, he doesn’t seem to care how he gets the ball again this season as long as he gets it, period.

“I know my number’s going to get called again to pitch again in 2016, and I’ll be ready,” Price said after Game 2, per Newsday‘s Erik Boland. “I want it for sure.”

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm. And in this case, you can’t blame Price for wanting to get back out there and deliver on what he said last December.

But what’s certain is this: If Price does get back on the mound, there are going to be a lot of raised pulses in and around the city of Boston.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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