David Price has morphed into Jim Lonborg/Luis Tiant/Josh Beckett/Jon Lester. Dare we say Curt Schilling? Boston’s much-maligned $217 million southpaw — a dartboard ornament for most of his three seasons at Fenway — is suddenly the Mr. October of the Red Sox pitching staff.
After a lifetime of historic postseason failure (zero wins in 11 postseason starts), Price has found his playoff mojo at the precise moment it matters most. On the heels of his series-clinching Game 5 masterpiece in Houston last week, Price on Wednesday dazzled the Dodgers, allowing only three hits in six innings of a 4-2 Red Sox victory in Game 2 of the World Series. J.D. Martinez delivered the winning runs with a two-run, two-out single to right in the fifth. Sox pitchers retired the final 16 Dodger batters.
So there. The indomitable 2018 Red Sox have won nine of their 11 playoff games and are only two victories shy of their fourth world championship in this century. The Sons of Alex Cora are scheduled to fly to Los Angeles Thursday and resume the quest for hardball’s holy grail Friday at Dodger Stadium. The Sox have won 117 games in their historic season and are hoping to return from the West Coast with the coveted Commissioner’s Trophy.
Red Sox in three. Just give them the hardware now.
“At least we know if things don’t go well in LA, we’re coming back,’’ said Cora.
No one in New England would complain if the Red Sox turned out the lights for good at Fenway on Wednesday. Playing hours after a spectacular rainbow for a second consecutive night, the BoSox battled the Dodgers for the full nine innings and won it with a three-run fifth off LA starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Price did the rest. He no-hit the Dodgers for the first three innings and didn’t crack until the visitors bled him for a pair in the fourth. But that was all Price allowed. Over six innings he yielded just the two runs on three hits. In his last two starts, he has given up just six hits and two runs over 12 innings, winning both. He has been the opposite of Yuck.
“I just try to stay the same,’’ said Price. “I had my fastball command and that’s the key for me . . . This is huge. This is the biggest stage in baseball. It feels good, for sure. I’m pumped for myself and for my teammates and coaches to be two wins away.’’
“He’s been throwing the ball well,’’ said Cora. “He’s been one of the best pitchers in the big leagues for a while. I’m very proud of him and happy for him. I trust him. We trust him. They said he struggled in October, but I’m the new guy. And we had to move forward.’’
“We’ve got to find a way to win a baseball game,’’ countered Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “They got the hits and we didn’t. It’s a good offensive club. We’re not swinging the bats right now. But we’ll be ready for Game 3 . . . These are the guys that got us here and we’re going to ride them out.’’
Wednesday’s pregame ceremony was filled with pomp and controversy. The Sox chose to honor their iconic 2004 champions and had no trouble assembling seven of the warriors of the biblical, curse-busting champions from 14 years ago.
One by one, the heroes of 2004 trotted out of the dugout. Jason Varitek. Tim Wakefield. Kevin Millar. Alan Embree. Keith Foulke. Pedro Martinez. And finally, David Ortiz. There was one interruption. After Millar was introduced, the public address announcer cited Roberts — the man who pinch ran for Millar in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ’04 ALCS and stole the most important base in baseball history. Roberts came out of the third base dugout and gave Millar and Varitek hugs, then retreated to his workplace in a futile effort to beat the Red Sox in Game 2 of the 2018 World Series. Roberts has been pantsed by Cora in these first two games.
During all this feel-good Fenway frivolity, there was one question lingering . . .
Where was Curt Schilling? Where was Mr. Bloody Sock? By any measure, Schill runs 1-A to Ortiz as the Main Man of 2004. And yet he was not part of this. He was just another guy, same as Curtis Leskanic and Kyle Snyder.
A couple of hours before the game, I spoke with a high-level Red Sox executive about Schilling’s absence.
“We did not reach out to him,’’ acknowledged the Sox rep. “But it is not out of spite. It was originally just going to be Pedro and David and Wake and Millar, but we heard from a few others and they are included.’’
Huh? Alan Embree was honored as a hero of 2004 but not Curt Schilling? Sounds political. It’s Yawkey Way/Jersey Street all over again and a lot of fans disapprove. It appears that the Red Sox are distancing themselves from their 2004 Bloody Sock hero in the wake of his crazed Bobby Fischer/Steve Carlton-esque political rants.
Like him or not, Schilling forever will be one of the most significant Red Sox players from the 2004 champs. His political positions have made him something of a lightning rod in recent years, but his exclusion from Wednesday night’s ceremony raised more than a few eyebrows. You can argue with his politics and you can complain that he tricked the state of Rhode Island out of $75 million, but you cannot erase him from the historic narrative of 2004. Coincidently, Wednesday’s game was played on the same date as Schilling’s 6-2, Game 2 Series win over the Cardinals in 2004.
Schilling did not return the Globe’s messages regarding the snub but tweeted, “I get to keep my 3 rings and 3 trophies, so it’s all good.’’ The pitcher’s wife, Shonda Schilling, weighed in on Twitter, writing, “Ownership sure didn’t have a problem with him when slicing and shooting his ankle up to pitch. Always better to fly 8 men in rather than ask one that stayed and raised his family here 16 miles from the ballpark.’’
Meanwhile, there was a game to play and another opportunity for Price to transform himself from local pariah to Larry Bird/Bobby Orr.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second when Ian Kinsler drove in Xander Bogaerts, who had doubled off the Wall. Good omen. The Sox are 9-0 when scoring first in this postseason.
The Dodgers took their first lead of the series with two runs in the fourth — one on a sacrifice fly by Matt Kemp and another on a single by Yasiel Puig.
Still, Price hung tough, even though it was 45 degrees and he has a history of difficulty in cold weather.
When Fox’s Ken Rosenthal asked Price what has changed, the lefty answered, “I have.’’
Perhaps the most amazing factoid of the evening was Price pitching six full innings. The 2018 postseason has been an exercise in “bullpenning” analytics and we are not accustomed to seeing starting pitchers venture past four or five frames.
Now Price is the ace. And the Red Sox are two wins away from joining the conversation of Greatest Team Ever.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com.