BOSTON — Ask David Price about his history of struggling in the postseason — a 5.03 ERA overall and zero wins in nine starts — and he’ll give you all the typical answers. Take it one pitch at a time, focus on what he can control, don’t put too much pressure on himself and treat it like any other game.
“That’s what I look forward to doing,” Price said.
Ask Price three times in a row, in slightly different ways, about his history of struggling in the postseason, and he’ll start to be honest about it.
“I just don’t have an answer,” he said. “I’ve been asked that quite awhile now. I can’t really put my finger on it. That was my generic answer.”
Price’s acknowledgment of his reality came Friday, a day before his start in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees at Fenway Park. The proverbial lights will be about as bright as it gets: two 100-win teams, a storied rivalry, October (and seasonably cool weather to match). Price generally has not fared well in such situations — though he tossed 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings of relief in last year’s playoffs — but manager Alex Cora sees reason to believe in Price’s dominant second half.
In 11 starts after the All-Star break, while the Red Sox played with ace Chris Sale absent or not at full strength, Price had a 2.25 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He allowed more than three runs in only one of those games, and four were scoreless. Opponents hit .200 and slugged .324 against him.
So no, Cora doesn’t intend on sitting down with Price to tell him not to stress about the playoffs.
“I’m treating the guys the same way I treat them in the regular season. That’s a guy I trust,” Cora said. “We saw him pitching the second part of the season. He was probably the second-best lefty in the league after [Tampa Bay’s Blake] Snell. The way he went about his business, he pitched against the Yankees, he pitched against the Astros, he pitched against the Indians; he did a good job.
“So I don’t feel I have to talk to him. He’s ready. He’s ready for the challenge.”
The Yankees have given Price major trouble this season, hitting nine home runs off him in 15 2⁄3 innings. In four starts, he has a 10.34 ERA and they have a .309/.397/.765 slash line.
First came April 11, when Price allowed four runs in one inning before exiting with hand numbness and what later was deemed a circulation issue. His only bad start down the stretch came in the Bronx, when the Yankees hit him up for six runs (four earned) in 5 1⁄3 innings. In between, on July 1, the Yankees smacked five homers in 3 1⁄3 innings.
Cora pointed to that outing as a turning point in Price’s season. Price said it led to at least one significant adjustment.
“Move the ball around,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done a really good job of in my career. And at that point in this season, I was really one side of the plate the entire — for a while. So to switch that back up, making pitches on both sides of the plate, that did a lot for me.”