The Red Sox are going to the World Series, and their latest win came on the back of David Price throwing the game of his life. When you consider all of the circumstances — a potential-clincher on the road against the defending champions as a pitcher with a long history of postseason failures on three days rest just one day after warming in the bullpen — it’s up there among the best postseason starts in Red Sox history, at least since I’ve been watching. He wasn’t the only good performer on Thursday — J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers hit big home runs against Justin Verlander, and Nathan Eovaldi was great out of the bullpen — but this was the David Price game. And it put Boston just four wins away from a championship.
Heading into this game, it was defensible to look at this is as a free space of sorts for the Red Sox. After all, they were going up against one of the greatest postseason pitchers of my lifetime in Justin Verlander who had thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games. Meanwhile, Boston was countering with a historically bad postseason pitcher on three days rest after throwing extensively in the bullpen the day before. Oh, and he’s a lefty going up against a lineup that feasts on southpaws. So, yeah it was a big moment for David Price.
And you know what? He exceeded any and all reasonable expectations anyone could have put on him in this game. Now, he sort of got the postseason monkey off his back in his Game 2 performance in this series, but that was more because he wasn’t a disaster than him being good. This time around, he was special. It was vintage David Price, and really it was as good as we’ve seen him this entire season. His velocity was up, he was commanding his cutter and he was utilizing his changeup. That last part may have been the most important, and it’s been the separator from his good and bad outings. But really, you can’t pin it on any one thing. Price looked great in every possible way.
The first inning always seems to be the key for him, and particularly in a moment like this. If Price could get through a quick first and avoid any lingering doubts, it would be huge. That’s exactly what happened. He did allow a single to Jose Altuve, but other than that he was perfect in a frame that included two strikeouts.
From there, he settled in. The second featured a leadoff single, but nothing more, and in the third he tossed a 1-2-3 inning that included an inning-ending strikeout against Alex Bregman. Price’s most troubling portion of the game was the fourth. It looked like it would be just another dominant inning when he started things off with a pair of very impressive strikeouts against Altuve and Carlos Correa, but then Yuli Gurriel put up a tough at bat. He fought off a string of two-strike offerings before Price finally caught too much of the plate. The Astros first baseman hit one on a line into left field for a double, and suddenly the Astros had a runner in scoring position for Marwin Gonzalez. Price didn’t give in, though, and he got out of the inning unscathed with a strikeout on a nasty changeup in the dirt. He’d come right back out for the fifth with another 1-2-3 inning.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox weren’t exactly bucking expectations against Verlander, at least not early on. He may not have been quite as dominant early as we expected but, well, he was pretty damn good. Boston managed just a walk in the first inning, and the walk to J.D. Martinez was the only time Verlander even had to work.
In the second, though, the Red Sox started to threaten thanks to a rare mistake from the Astros biggest star. With one out, Ian Kinsler it a ground ball to third base but Bregman’s throw was off the mark. Gurriel made the catch but couldn’t apply a clean tag, and Kinsler reached on the error. After the second out of the inning, Christian Vazquez smacked a base hit and Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a walk, loading ‘em up for Mookie Betts with two outs. Verlander won the battle, striking out the likely AL MVP on a high fastball to keep the game scoreless.
The zeros wouldn’t stay on the board too much longer. In the top of the third, J.D. Martinez did what he does and finally broke out of his home run streak. He did, earlier in the at bat, catch a break when a pretty clear strike three was called a ball (and yes, the second strike may have been out of the zone to make up for it, but it was more borderline than the third pitch). He took advantage, though, demolishing a high curveball out to left field to give his team a lead over the team that cut him.
After that home run, the Red Sox didn’t really get to Verlander too much for a few innings. Through the fifith, they managed just a couple of singles after taking the 1-0 lead and they didn’t have a runner advance beyond first base. So when the top of the sixth began, it was still 1-0. It wouldn’t be for long. Mitch Moreland, in the starting lineup for the first time in this series, put a double off the left-field wall to lead off the inning, and Kinsler moved him over to third with a single. Rafael Devers then stepped to the plate, and he gave the Red Sox some breathing room. It wasn’t a moonshot, but the young third baseman jumped on a first-pitch fastball up in the zone and put it just over the wall into the Crawford Boxes, and just like that it was a 4-0 lead.
With the insurance on the board, Price came back out for the sixth to face the top of the lineup, and we got a bit of a replay from Game 4. Bregman started the inning with a deep fly ball out to right field, but Mookie Betts plays out there. It wasn’t quite as deep as Altuve’s controversial non-homer, but Betts made a leaping grab in front of the wall for the first out. In the end, Price got another 1-2-3 inning to end his night. In all, he went six scoreless with nine strikeouts and no walks. Just unbelievable.
With the same score in the seventh, Matt Barnes came in looking to continue his strong postseason. It seemed he was going to do just that with two quick ground outs to start the inning, but then he lost it. Gonzalez came up with two outs and got a hanging breaking ball that he deposited into the Crawford Boxes. 4-1. Then, Tony Kemp came up and Barnes lost the zone. He eventually worked a full count, but he lost him and put the Astros outfielder on for free. That was the end of Barnes’ night, and Nate Eovaldi came on to try and finish off the inning. The righty for a fly ball to end the inning with just the one run being scored.
After Boston got a runner to third but couldn’t get him home in the eighth, Eovaldi headed back out to the mound. He would get two quick outs, including a strikeout of Bregman, before George Springer put a base hit into center field. No matter, because Altuve lined out to center field and the Red Sox were three outs away.
To get those three outs, Alex Cora went back to the Craig Kimbrel well despite yelling from literally every Red Sox fan in the world. The closer got a strikeout to kick things off, but then issued a four-pitch walk to Gurriel. Gonzalez then went down on three pitches, putting the Red Sox one out away from the pennant. Kemp then flew out to left field, and the Red Sox were celebrating. That’s an AL pennant!
The Red Sox will have a few days to work off their hangover, as the World Series doesn’t get underway until Tuesday. We also don’t know who they’ll be playing, but if the Dodgers win their Game 6 on Friday it will be them. If not, they’ll play Milwaukee in a Game 7 on Saturday. Either way, we know Tuesday’s game will be at Fenway.