David Price finally got the monkey off his back Thursday night, as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Houston Astros 4-1 in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
In 11 previous playoff starts, Price owned an 0-9 record to go along with a 6.16 ERA. But with Chris Sale unable to start Thursday due to a stomach illness, Price took the ball in Houston and dominated the Astros for six shutout innings to eliminate both the defending World Series champions and the goose egg from his win column.
“It’s one of the most special days I’ve ever had on the baseball field,” Price told reporters in Houston after Boston’s series-clinching win. “So very special.”
Price, who had recorded two previous playoff wins as a reliever but none as a starter, allowed just three hits and didn’t walk anyone while striking out nine. He made some adjustments, namely with his changeup, and it paid dividends. Price was stellar for 93 pitches.
Baseball is largely mental, and few realities have tested that theory quite like Price’s playoff futility. He’s a five-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner who has had ample regular-season success at the major-league level, yet October continuously has proved problematic. Until Thursday.
“My last thought last night before I went to bed was probably a little bit different,” Price said after his Game 5 gem, per WEEI.com. “The night before I pitch I’m just envisioning myself making pitches, and last night I envisioned myself doing this right here. And going through my head what I was going to say. I’m happy it happened.”
Credit the Red Sox’s offense for supplying Price with a four-run lead. J.D. Martinez opened the scoring in the third inning with a solo home run, and Rafael Devers added a heavy dose of insurance in the sixth inning with a three-run homer of his own. But Price seized the moment and owned the night, perhaps as much because of his mindset as his command of the baseball.
“I definitely felt good on the mound,” Price said. “I continued to tell myself: ‘Just stay in the moment. Don’t worry about the next hitter. Don’t think about the next pitch. Just stay right here.’ And I was able to do that tonight. And it paid off. And that was one of the more special nights I’ve ever had on the baseball field.”
So, now what? Will this become the new normal for Price? It remains to be seen, obviously, but the Red Sox left-hander can enter the World Series knowing he really can win on the game’s biggest stage.