Price out to prove he can win in postseason
Facing 3-2 deficit, Blue Jays relying on ace in Game 6
TORONTO -- David Price feels that, to an extent, he has something to prove come Friday. The Blue Jays ace has a long track record of success in the regular season, but the left-hander has flinched on the October stage and remains without a win as a starter in the playoffs.
"I'll be ready to change that story tomorrow," Price said Thursday, on the eve of his Game 6 start against the Royals in the American League Championship Series (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time slated for 8 p.m.).
The Blue Jays certainly hope Price can flip the script, which includes seven losses in seven career postseason starts. With Kansas City holding a 3-2 edge in this best-of-seven series, another defeat Friday would send Toronto home for the winter.
Then again, if Price pulls off the win?
"Get to Game 7 and anything can happen," Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.
Thanks to a 7-1 victory over the Royals in Game 5 of this American League Championship Series on Wednesday, Toronto still has life in its quest to reach the World Series for the first time since 1993. Price is the ace, the potential AL Cy Young winner, and he will aim to live up to those titles in Game 6 with his team's season hanging in the balance.
This is why the Blue Jays made the deal for Price this summer. Toronto had the big stage, the critical moments, in mind. Now, as the Blue Jays find themselves in an all-too-familiar situation, with their backs against the wall, Price will take the hill. Toronto was down, 0-2, in the best-of-five AL Division Series, and then won three straight to reach the next round.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons quickly dismissed any talk of Price's postseason shortcomings.
"You get to be one of the elite pitchers in the game for a reason," Gibbons said Thursday. "Those are kind of the guys that get you here. Without David, we're not here, anyway. So, it's a moot topic there. Who knows [why he struggles in the playoffs]? It's hard to say.
"But, I'm glad he's going [in Game 6]. I'm not hesitant one bit to throw him out there."
It was all-hands-on-deck in Game 5, so Price was available out of Toronto's bullpen. Thanks to a brilliant performance by Marco Estrada, the Blue Jays avoided taking that step and forcing a rotation shuffle with their season on the brink. In the AL Division Series, Price worked three innings of relief in a win-or-go-home Game 4, taking him out of the equation for the decisive fifth game that helped Toronto punch its ticket to the ALCS.
Price was warming up and ready to come into Wednesday's game in the seventh inning, but Estrada pitched into the eighth and the Blue Jays' offense pulled away late.
"I was ready to come in whenever," Price said. "That's part of being in the bullpen. Things can change in a hurry. You've just got to stay ready, stay locked in, and that's what I was trying to do."
Needless to say, Gibbons was happy to avoid using Price.
"That really worked out perfectly, the fact that we didn't need David," Gibbons said.
Toronto slipped into an 0-2 hole before winning two of three at Rogers Centre, forcing the ALCS back to Kauffman Stadium. Price pitched there in Game 2, when he was brilliant for six innings and then bewildering before exiting with two outs in the seventh. Price set down 18 in a row (a Blue Jays postseason record) and then allowed five runs in the seventh.
"We just found holes," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "When he's on, he's as tough as any pitcher in this league. So you just have to hope that day, maybe he's going to make a mistake or two, and you don't miss it."
Price's October sample does not properly portray the type of performances he has delivered not only this season, but throughout his career. This year, he went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA in 32 starts with the Tigers and Blue Jays. In 11 starts down the stretch for Toronto, which acquired him at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Price went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA.
In that way, Price does not have anything to prove Friday night.
"I haven't got a win as a starter in the playoffs," Price said. "I guess I have to prove that I can pitch at this point in the season in the playoffs. I get that. But, I don't have to go out there and prove that I'm a good pitcher. I think I've done that over the seven years of my career.
"I'm just going to go out there, throw my game, have fun, have good things happen. Get good results and good things are going to happen. I know they are."