After another colossal playoff failure, what’s next for David Price?
LeBron James will cry to the officials. The first penalty in any hockey game in Montreal will be called against the visitors. And David Price will spit the bit in the playoffs.
Of this, you can be sure.
Price was hoping to get back in your good graces against the Yankees in Game 2 of the AL Division Series Saturday night. He was going to make you forget all about his $217 million contract and the ambush of Dennis Eckersley and Fortnite and the rest of the nonsense. He was going to win a playoff game. Against the Yankees.
He was prepared to do the Full Lackey to the tune of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and finish the night like Sally Field at the Oscars squealing, “You like me! You really like me!’’
In the big moment, Price came up small again. It was worse than ever. In 1⅔ innings of the latest, biggest game of his life, Price gave up two monstrous homers and three runs, walking two and surrendering a wall-ball single to Andrew McCutchen before he was mercifully lifted by manager Alex Cora. The Sox lost, 6-2. Price is 0-9 as a postseason starter. His team has lost all 10 of his postseason starts. This is a major league record.
He was contrite and polite after this latest implosion, sounding like a man in complete denial.
“I know I’m more than capable of winning games as a starter in October,’’ he said quietly. “. . . To throw the baseball the way I did is tough. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and getting an opportunity?’’
How? When? Bullpen? In New York? At Yankee Stadium this season, Price was 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA and he allowed eight home runs in 8⅔ innings. Here is Price’s 2018 season against the Yankees: 17⅓ innings, 23 runs, 24 hits, 11 homers, 11 walks.
That leaves the fifth and deciding Game 5 in Boston.
Price in a deciding game in the playoffs?
Cora did not rule out using Price in relief.
“We’ll talk about it and see where we’re at,’’ said the manager.
There’s no need to pile on Price anymore. It is simply sad. He is a Cy Young winner, one of the best pitchers of his generation. He is wildly rich and liked by his teammates. But his performance anxiety renders him hopeless in the big moments. If you want to be loved by Boston baseball fans you have to pitch well in the playoffs and you have to beat the Yankees. Price has done neither.
Price was at his halting, fidgeting worst. Reluctant to deliver pitches. Always a bad sign with him.
With one out in the first inning, Aaron Judge hit one of the longest home runs you’ll ever see at Fenway Park. Teeing off on a 1-and-2 fastball, Judge crushed a shot to deep left-center. It landed in the Monster Seats, just to the left of the flag pole. Hitting a ball out of Fenway to the right of flag pole was considered Ruthian back in the day. Harmon Killebrew and Jim Rice did it in the days before the big scoreboard has made it almost impossible. This was a shot almost like those. Exit velocity: 113 miles per hour.
Leading off the second, Gary Sanchez hit a rocket into Monstertown to make it 2-0. Sanchez batted .186 in 2018, but he has hit six homers in 18 plate appearances against Price.
Price induced a couple of ground ball outs after the Sanchez blast, then walked the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, and yielded the wall-ball single (it would have been a homer in any other park) to McCutchen.
Like the rest of us, Cora had seen enough. This was a night when the Sox at the very least needed a long outing from Price. They got 1⅔ innings. Five outs on 42 pitches.
“It’s the playoffs,’’ Price said when asked about the quick hook. “If I don’t like it, I need to pitch better.’’
Price has been on his best behavior this season and came into the night acknowledging that he needs to pitch better in October. In September he told WEEI, “I could go 35-0 in the regular season with a 0.00 ERA and it wouldn’t matter. I need to win in October. That’s that.’’
The numbers are staggering. Price has now pitched 75 playoff innings, compiling an ERA of 5.28. In 10 playoff starts he is 0-9 with a 6.03 ERA. In baseball history, 70 pitchers have made 10 or more playoff starts and Price and Al Leiter are the only ones without a victory.
Two years ago in Cleveland, Price got the ball in Game 2 and lasted only 3⅓ innings of a 6-0 loss. He gave up six hits and two walks.
His failures against the Yankees while pitching for the Red Sox are even worse. Price is 39-19 overall since joining the Sox in 2016. But in 12 starts against the Yankees since 2016 he has an ERA of 7.95. This season against New York: 17⅓ innings, 23 runs, 24 hits, 11 homers, 11 walks.
The Yankees really are his daddy.
In September, Price told the Wall Street Journal, “ . . . the bottom line is going to be, ‘But will he do it in October?’ I know that, and that’s something I’m ready to move past.’’
Now this. Still no answer.
Time for an opt-out for Price.
Or a trade.
Or an exorcism.