BOSTON — As David Price took the Fenway Park mound, he wore the same spikes and same crisp white uniform.
He threw the same number of warm-up pitches, tapped his chest the same way as he left the mound, and ducked down the same tunnel after each inning.
Blessed with the same skill set, Price grabbed the same rosin bag and threw the same baseball. And for the second time in as many starts, his October result was different.
David Price was absolutely brilliant in a playoff start. Again.
After punching Boston’s ticket to the World Series against the Astros, Price took the ball in Game 2 against the Dodgers, and proved that his ALCS start was no fluke.
The lefty may have gotten the monkey off his back in Houston, but with his World Series showing, Price ensured that it packed its things, dyed its hair blonde, and joined the witness protection program for primates.
He threw a gem as the Red Sox knocked off the Dodgers, 4-2, to move two wins away from a championship.
"Price is nasty," Dodgers first baseman David Freese said. " I think he was confident. In the last outing, he was like, alright, sure, let’s go – and he came out and did the same thing. He’s got good action on his ball, he comes at you slow and then lets it rip."
After getting his first playoff win, relief was written all over Price’s face. He admitted as much ahead of his Game 2 outing.
“‘Lighter’ is a good word, yeah,” Price said. "(Monday) we had media day. I got to look forward to it for the first time in a long time. It’s definitely a weight lifted off of me for sure. Not like food tastes better or anything like that, but it was time. And I’m definitely glad that the time came and we moved past it. And I look forward to doing the same thing (in Game 2).”
That’s exactly what the $217 million man did.
On a night where home plate umpire Kerwin Danley had an exceptionally tight strike zone, Price still spun six innings of two-run ball, limiting the Dodgers to three hits.
It was hard to believe it’d been only 18 days since Price hit playoff rock bottom.
In the ALDS against the Yankees, Price was given the hook after only recording five outs, and teams fell to 0-10 in his October starts.
This is a different David Price. There’s no denying the confidence Freese pointed to.
The lefty has a circulation issue that affects his extremities in cold weather — his hands can go numb — and with temperatures in the mid-40s, Alex Cora asked him if he’d rather be pushed back to Game 3 in L.A.
“I talked to him like four days ago, five days ago, and I (already) knew the answer,” Cora said. “‘I’m good.’”
Price was better than good against the Dodgers. After opening the game with three hitless innings, Price finally encountered some turbulence in the fourth. After giving up back-to-back rocket singles, the lefty walked the bases loaded.
Nobody moved in the Boston bullpen.
It was a testament to how far he’s come over the last two weeks. Earlier in the postseason, Cora was quick to have relievers warm behind Price at the first sign of trouble. In the World Series, he was stick with his starter.
The Dodgers tagged him for two runs, but then Price was able to steer though the skid. Where he’d seen outings go awry in the past, he settled down.
"That was a tough inning, it could have spun out of control pretty fast," Price said. "And it's been one of my Achilles heels especially in the playoffs and even in the regular season, is that big inning. Being able to stop it at two right there after the (Yasiel) Puig hit to center, that was big for us."
Then he went back out and spun two more scoreless innings.
Price’s sixth was the best of the night, and he passed the baton to his bullpen. He departed with a 4-2 lead, in line to win his second consecutive playoff start.
Despite the tough track record, Price was adamant that his love of the game never wavered.
“I always enjoy doing this. Just because I failed in October for about nine straight years, it didn’t take away my passion from baseball,” Price said before Game 4. “This is something I fell in love with whenever I was two years old. So the ups and the downs, I knew they were going to happen. I’ve definitely had many more downs than ups in October, but I’ve got a lot of baseball left.”
With a World Series win now on his resume, the ups are starting to mount a late comeback.