NEW YORK — David Price exorcised his postseason demons last October. Now would be a good time to dispatch the beasties that have plagued him in Yankee Stadium since joining Boston.
A series that was supposed to give the Red Sox a jolt of life in the American League East is instead on life support following a pair of lackluster defeats, including Saturday’s 5-3 loss. And that means Price, the man who rescued the pitching staff last postseason, will be called upon to succeed in Sunday night’s finale in a building that has not treated him well since 2016.
Price enters Sunday’s contest 8-8 with a 4.83 ERA in 21 lifetime starts at the House that Jeter Built. Including playoffs, Price is 0-7 with a 10.34 ERA in Yankee Stadium since joining the Red Sox in 2016. He has allowed 55 hits — including a staggering 15 home runs — in just 31.1 innings.
Manager Alex Cora didn’t hesitate when asked if he had considered skipping Price on Sunday, since Thursday’s rainout gave him the flexibility to push a starter back. Cora chose to temporarily assign Eduardo Rodriguez to the bullpen instead.
“I mean, it was his turn and like I said, Eddie was the one that actually we could use out of the bullpen yesterday or today,” Cora said. “Not going to overthink that one.”
Price’s teammates are leery of questions about their confidence level in the ace left-hander, probably because they feel he’s been unfairly attacked during his time in Boston. So their answers in this regard were clipped.
“Always confident in him,” said right-hander Rick Porcello with a hint of annoyance.
“Very high,” said Matt Barnes. “Very high.”
While his fellow pitchers are protective of Price, they also recognize what he has represented since about last July — a stopper.
“He commands every single one of his pitches in every count,” Barnes said. “It’s not just commanding it. He splits the plate into what seems like eighths. He just puts everything wherever he wants, crisscrossing on either side, in and out, and really keeps the hitters off balance.”
Barnes can’t get over the fact that Price has spent virtually his entire career in the relentless AL East.
“It’s unbelievable,” Barnes said. “I think this is one of, if not the hardest, divisions to play in baseball and to do it for as long as he has, as successfully as he has, is really a testament to how incredibly talented he is and how hard he works.”
Had Price not won his final three starts of October, against the Astros and Dodgers, we’d be much more likely to view Sunday’s start through a prism of hopelessness. But the snake-bitten Price seemed to disappear the moment he won Game 5 of the World Series.
Will his October success spark him to end another losing streak? The Red Sox sure hope so. They arrived in New York hoping to cut into New York’s 7.5-game lead in the division. Now they need to salvage the finale just to keep from falling 10.5 games back.
That would be a disaster, and it’s up to Price to avoid it.
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