LOS ANGELES -- After Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, we spell redemption: D-A-V-I-D.
We sometimes tend to mock the narrative. That is, when the common consensus doesn't actually line up with reality. In the case of David Price and postseason performances, however, it wasn't the mockable narrative. He had been absolutely terrible in the playoffs through his career.
This was a great regular season pitcher for a long time. He had a Cy Young and two runner-ups in voting to his name. He signed a deal worth over $200 million and few called it a bad deal for the Red Sox at the time.
And yet, through Game 2 of the ALCS this year, Price had a career 5.42 ERA in 79 2/3 innings in the playoffs. If we lop off his rookie year out of the bullpen with the Rays, it was 5.72.
Sure, he went through stretches of pitching effectively. He was a hard-luck loser in Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS (8 IP, 2 ER). He also threw a stellar complete-game outing against the Rangers in Texas in a wild-card tiebreaker, but that didn't count as the playoffs. He did have a resume lined with clunkers and memorable meltdowns (remember when he fell apart in Kauffman Stadium in 2015?).
All of a sudden, it was Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS and Price was warming up to rescue Craig Kimbrel. It was like the scene from an alternate universe. He wasn't needed that night, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora tapped him to start Game 5 on short rest after hurriedly warming the night before.
Price went out and delivered the best start of his postseason career. Six scoreless innings. Three hits and no walks. Nine strikeouts. The Red Sox won the pennant.
Price would follow that up with a very good outing in Game 2 of the World Series (6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER), helping spot the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the series. He was then summoned to work 2/3 of an inning in Game 3 and even warmed up in earnest on Game 4.
It seemed like a very difficult situation for Price when he was named Game 5 starter. He would've been on short rest anyway, but throw on top of that the fact that he had the relief outing and the bullpen session.
No matter. Price gave up a David Freese home run on the first pitch he threw. After that? Price only needed to face 24 hitters to get the 21 outs in his seven stellar innings of work. His fastball-change combo was great, in fact, the change was brilliant. It routinely made good hitters look stupid.
I generally avoid questioning the intestinal fortitude of major-league players. After all, it's the hardest game there is in terms of needing mental toughness and players wouldn't be able to make the majors if things freaked them out easily. I do wonder on Price, though, after having so many things go wrong in starts so many times, had a bit of a mental block in the playoffs these last few years.
Perhaps it was Cora having the confidence in him to not only warm him up and possibly relieve one of the best closers of this generation, but then for Cora to stick with him in Game 5 on short rest in the ALCS that helped alleviate any block. Maybe it was getting through his jam and limiting the damage in Game 2 of the World Series instead of falling apart like he's done in the past.
Whatever happened, if anything happened at all, Game 5 of the 2018 World Series was the finest hour of Price's career. He has successfully exorcised the postseason demons that previously plagued him. He should never have to deal with the Boston media worrying about his contract again. He was a big part of winning the World Series and pitched like an utter stud in the course of it. He did whatever Cora asked him throughout the playoffs and, so far as we could tell, didn't once complain.
David Price, World Series champion and hero. He has achieved redemption.