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Boston continues to make opposing teams pay a wicked Price during postseason

Boston continues to make opposing teams pay a wicked Price during postseason
Red Sox pitcher David Price throws in the first inning. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In his left arm, the one he had just used so powerfully against the Dodgers, David Price held his son.

Xavier Price is 17 months old, and adorable. He wore a T-shirt with a picture of his dad on it. He squirmed, trying to escape his father’s grasp and move freely about the interview room. He did his best to yank down the backdrop behind his father, the one that featured a sponsor that paid millions of dollars for its name to appear there.

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For the one and only time Wednesday night, Price surrendered.

“You win, dude,” he told his son. “Go to Mom.”

On this day, and in this month, Price already was a winner.

Price dominated the Dodgers, pitching his Boston Red Sox within two victories of a parade. He threw six innings, five of them hitless. The Red Sox won 4-2 and they lead the World Series, two games to none.

Labels stick in an instant, but they take forever to remove. This October is shaping up to be quite the label remover for Price.

The label for him is the same as it is for Clayton Kershaw: can’t win in October.

“There’s not going to be questions in spring training about David Price in October,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.

The ring’s the thing. If the Red Sox win the World Series, Cora will be absolutely right. If they do not, well, check back after checking how Price performs in the rest of the series.

Price and Kershaw are the proud owners of the most lucrative contracts ever awarded to pitchers. The Boston Red Sox committed $217 million to Price, two years after the Dodgers committed $215 million to Kershaw.

Each player can opt out of his contract after the World Series. Price has said he will not opt out. Kershaw has said he is undecided.

If the Dodgers win Game 7 of last year’s World Series, which included his four shutout innings in relief, no one much cares about how poorly Kershaw pitched in Game 5. Now, however, his uneven October record includes consecutive unsatisfactory World Series starts, and the Dodgers could go to the World Series in back-to-back years without winning either time.

“He’s a Hall of Famer,” Price said. “He’ll be fine.”

Kershaw has started 23 postseason games, winning nine. His postseason earned-run average is 4.28.

Price has started 13 postseason games. He won none of the first 11. His postseason ERA, up to the minute, is 4.91.

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But we remember best what we remember last, and there Price has sparkled. He won the American League Championship Series clincher, pitching six shutout innings, and he won his World Series debut Wednesday.

He held the Dodgers hitless in the first inning, and the second, and the third. The Dodgers bunched three hits in the fourth, and then Price held them hitless again in the fifth, and the sixth. Chris Taylor tried to bunt his way on base in the sixth. That did not work either.

Price had slayed his October demons, or at least the Red Sox Twitter account said so.

“So about Price in the postseason …” read the Red Sox tweet, which displayed Price’s pitching line.

His line in his past two starts: 12 innings, six hits, two runs, three walks, 14 strikeouts.

“This is the biggest stage in baseball,” Price said. “There’s no other stage that’s going to be bigger than pitching in a World Series game, unless it’s Game 7 of the World Series. To be able to do that, it feels good, for sure.”

He believed he had thrown off his label, and the shackles of his past, in pitching the ALCS clincher. His postseason victory total would never again be zero. He talked about how much lighter his mood was, that he no longer had to dread facing reporters because he knew what question would inevitably be coming.

Still, he insisted, he never stopped having fun.

“Just because I failed in October for about nine straight years, it didn't take away my passion from baseball,” Price said. “This is something I fell in love with whenever I was 2 years old. So the ups and the downs, I knew they were going to happen.

“I've definitely had many more downs than ups in October, but I've got a lot of baseball left.”

The Dodgers hope they have a lot of baseball left. They hope Kershaw can take the mound in Game 5, but they have to force a Game 5 first.

The last 10 teams to win the first two games of the World Series have gone on to win the series. The last time a team lost the first two games and won the World Series without home-field advantage?

That would be your 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

In Game 3, the Dodgers gave the ball to rookie Fernando Valenzuela. He gave up four runs in the first three innings, but he did not give up the ball. The Dodgers won.

Valenzuela made 147 pitches that day. We like to say “anything can happen,” but 147 pitches will not happen Friday. The Dodgers would be delighted with six solid innings from rookie Walker Buehler, and the victory that assures Game 5, and another chance for Kershaw.

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