By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Game 5 of the 2018 World Series was a microcosm for David Price’s entire postseason. The early stages added fuel to the ever-raging fire of scrutiny, criticism, and doubt from those who covered the Red Sox lefty over the course of a mostly rocky October resume. But by the end, Price was on top of the baseball world. And in the wake of Price’s stunningly dominant run in the final two rounds of the playoffs, the fortress of “Price is a postseason failure” has been reduced to rubble.
Winning three games and allowing just three runs in his final 19.2 postseason innings, Price put together a playoff performance for the ages for the 2018 Red Sox, who won their fourth World Series championship since 2004 on Sunday night. And in the process, Price shattered one of Boston sports’ most enduring narratives, a story that looked, sounded, and felt like it would never be rewritten. Price couldn’t choose his own adventure in this tale; everything always led to that final, disappointing page.
Not this time.
And now that never-ending story of darkness leads to one of Boston sports’ most astonishing happy endings.
Price entered the 2018 postseason with an 0-8 record and a 5.03 ERA as a starter in October. This year didn’t start well, either, as Price was familiarly shaky against the Yankees and even in his first start against the Houston Astros in the ALCS. But from there, Price finally, mercifully, looked like a different pitcher. The kind of pitcher he always had the ability to be. This guy beat Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, two slam dunks to end up in Cooperstown before he does, in each of the Red Sox’ final two clinching games.
But now, the enduring images of Price in the playoffs should be him posing with the Commissioner’s trophy. Roaring in excitement as he leaves the mound after striking out Manny Machado to finish the seventh inning of Sunday’s clincher. Telling all the same writers and yappers (this one included) who doubted or dismissed the possibility that he’d ever shine in October to kindly piss off.
They will be.
“I hold all the cards now, and that feels so good. That feels so good,” Price told reporters after Game 5. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to hold that trump card. You guys have had it for a long time. You’ve played that card extremely well. But you don’t have it anymore. None of you do, and that feels really good.”
The only question left for Price after sending the Red Sox to the World Series was whether his effort in the ALCS-clinching win would carry over against the Dodgers. He offered the first answer in Game 2, when he allowed just two runs over six innings in a tight 4-2 win.
Next sign that Price had become a different pitcher came in the Red Sox’ only loss of the series, the Dodgers’ 18-inning win in Game 3. Price entered the game on two days’ rest in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied at one. He allowed a leadoff single to Cody Bellinger, but caught the young outfielder in a run-down after getting Yasiel Puig to pop out. He ended up delivering a scoreless pair of outs that night.
Then, the capper. After manager Alex Cora sneaked in the announcement that Price would start on just one day’s rest in Game 5, Price authored his glorious final chapter. But like the ugly start to his postseason, this one went poorly for Price as quickly as it possibly could.
David Freese’s leadoff home run put a bit of a stain on Steve Pearce’s huge first-inning home run off Clayton Kershaw, but that didn’t matter much to Price. After a misplayed flyball by J.D. Martinez led to a triple for Freese in the third inning, Price retired 14 Dodgers in a row on the way to seven-plus innings with only three hits and one run allowed. Series MVP Pearce did the rest of what the Red Sox needed, and Price and the Red Sox are world champions.
Dead narratives. Dead narratives everywhere.
Price can’t pitch well in the postseason? Over. Price will never be a major part of a world championship team? Yeah, that’s done too. Price wasn’t worth seven years and $210 million? He’s worth every last cent. In fact, maybe don’t opt out now.
He probably wasn’t going to leave, anyway. But Boston didn’t have to wait beyond year three for Price to finally live up to what he said in his introductory press conference in 2015: “I think I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox.”
He saved his biggest and best for last this time. And now, Price is going to have a large, shiny ring on his finger to remind himself of the sprawling treasure trove of narratives he just pillaged and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic.
Sure, Price is now going to have expectations to pitch like he did in October of 2018. But pointing to Price pre-2018 as anything other than the prologue to Boston sports’ ultimate redemption story is truly a fool’s errand. Really, it should all be erased now.
In any sport, all you need is one championship performance to subvert a history of losses, to make that winning stage your own. Price just became the latest world-class athlete to achieve that. With one remarkable October, Price’s narrative has completely changed. It doesn’t end in disaster, but in long-awaited glory.
It’s now the story of a champion.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.