LOS ANGELES — David Price was among the last Red Sox to leave the makeshift stage set up on the infield grass Sunday night, his brand-new championship T-shirt still dry — not yet soaked with champagne — as he stared down at the mob of teammates below. Then the thousands of Red Sox fans who lingered inside Dodger Stadium began to chant his name.
His focus shifted from the chaos on the field — a scene he had a hand in creating — to the chaos in the stands. Price tipped his cap and waved. “They showed me love,” he said, “so I showed it back.”
They haven’t always had an easy relationship, he and the fan base, not after years of perceived failure, of something other than a championship. But that’s all better now.
Price was masterful in a 5-1 World Series-clinching win over the Dodgers in Game 5, completing a dramatic turnaround: wins in three straight starts, including the ALCS and Fall Classic series-enders.
Pitching on short rest — and on about 20 hours’ notice after the Sox opted to go with him over Chris Sale late Saturday night — Price allowed one run, three hits and two walks in seven innings-plus.
That came after he started Game 2 and relieved in Game 3. He wound up allowing three runs in 13 2⁄3 World Series innings for a 1.98 ERA. “This is why I came here,” Price said. “This is what I envisioned. This feeling right here, being a World Series champ — this is why I came to Boston. I’m happy we were able to do it.”
Price’s only blemish Sunday was his first pitch, a fastball that David Freese crushed for a home run, but all that did was cut Boston’s lead to 2-1. The only other Los Angeles hits were Yasiel Puig’s second-inning bloop single and Freese’s third-inning triple, a catchable ball that rightfielder J.D. Martinez, usually Boston’s DH, lost in the lights.
Faced with the tiniest bit of adversity, Price responded by not only getting the next two batters, Justin Turner and Kike Hernandez, to hit into meek outs but setting down 14 batters in a row.
The last in that sequence, Puig, tapped a pitch back to Price, who made the easy toss to first to end the seventh inning. He walked off the field clapping his glove and tapping his chest. Price walked Chris Taylor to begin the eighth before getting pulled in favor of Joe Kelly, who combined with Chris Sale to strike out the final six Dodgers batters.
Price’s history of postseason failure has been detailed ad nauseam the past few Octobers, including this one. He couldn’t pitch in the playoffs, they said. And it seemed true. He entered this year’s tournament with a career 5.03 postseason ERA and zero team wins in nine starts.
After losing to the Yankees in the ALDS and almost getting a win against the Astros in the ALCS, Price finally broke through. He helped the Red Sox to the AL pennant by finishing off Houston: nine strikeouts in six shutout innings in Game 5.
In the past week and a half, Price altered his own history, posting a 1.37 ERA from the last game of the ALCS to the last game of the season.
“There’s a lot of people that gave up on him throughout the season,” Alex Cora said. “A lot of people that gave up on him after his outing against New York. But we knew that he’s one of the best pitchers in the big leagues, and he cares, he wants to win, and finally [get] his World Series win.”
Postseason Price has been a topic of discussion in Boston since he signed a seven-year, $217-million contract — the largest ever for a pitcher — with the Red Sox in December 2015 and joked that he had been “saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox.”
“I know good things are going to happen to me in October,” Price said that day. “And that just hasn’t been the case thus far. I know those times are going to change.”
At least confident and perhaps prophetic, Price proved himself right.
“I wasn’t lying,” he said Sunday, standing in shallow right-centerfield. “It look longer than I hoped it would, longer than I expected it to. But to have this feeling right now, it was all worth it.”