CLEVELAND -- In happier times -- and it's hard not to be happy when you're at a news conference announcing your $217 million contract -- David Price made light of his postseason past, which has famously been littered with potholes."I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red
CLEVELAND -- In happier times -- and it's hard not to be happy when you're at a news conference announcing your $217 million contract -- David Price made light of his postseason past, which has famously been littered with potholes.
"I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox," he had said, flashing that endearing smile of his.
These were not happy times Friday night at Progressive Field. This was a night when the lifeless Boston bats, the hands of October fate and a regrettable pitch to Lonnie Chisenhall combined to hand Price yet another postseason defeat. And in the aftermath of a 6-0 loss that puts the Sox in an 0-2 hole in a best-of-five American League Division Series headed for Fenway (Game 3 is at 6 p.m. ET Monday on TBS), the only narrative that trumps the talk about Price's odd October résumé is the one about David Ortiz's storied career ending on a sour note.
:: ALDS: Red Sox vs. Indians coverage ::
"We're getting our [you-know-whats] beat," Ortiz said.
No butts about it.
Against that backdrop, Price's lack of postseason victories was of course brought up again, this time with the left-hander now sporting a 5.57 ERA in 15 career appearances (nine starts) on this stage.
"I've got two wins [in the postseason]," he said, helpfully correcting the reporter who asked him the inevitable question. "Just not as a starter."
Oh, OK. So much for saving them up for the Red Sox.
But the Red Sox obviously didn't pay Price a king's ransom for his postseason relief prowess.
On this night, Price was supposed to be their ace, as intended. He was supposed to salvage a road split, make it a brand new series bound for Boston, elevate his position in postseason lore, put Papi in position to bring the hammer down hard in the ballpark where he does his most damage. Yada, yada, yada.
The fact that none of those things happened isn't attributable to Price getting absolutely shelled. But he certainly wasn't absolutely sharp, either. He was not efficient, not lucky and not around for long.
• Price labors, stays winless in playoff starts
In just 3 1/3 innings of work, Price was charged with five runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts. It was his ninth postseason start, and his teams have lost all nine of them. A career that has included recent transience -- Price became the first player in history to start a postseason game four years in a row for four different teams -- has also included this unusual consistency in the end October result.
"I think he manages that well," Boston pitching coach Carl Willis said. "He's a competitor. He goes out expecting to win. He really does. I can't explain it, but sometimes the breaks don't go your way."
This wasn't just a lame attempt to put a positive spin on an awful evening. Willis was right: Price did have some breaks go against him. The Indians' four-run second inning began with Carlos Santana's one-out ground-ball single through the hole at short, continued with Jose Ramirez's swinging-bunt single and reached the run-scored realm when Brandon Guyer put a pop-up (with an exit velocity of 64.1 mph, per Statcast™) into no-man's land in shallow left.
Not exactly an onslaught.
But then came the moment that kind of summed up two days' worth of play in which everything Indians manager Terry Francona touched turned to gold. Chisenhall, making a rare start against a lefty, turned on a two-seam fastball with a line drive that looked like it came off a two-iron. The ball smacked the electrical box just above the yellow line on the wall in the right-field corner and, just like that, it was 4-0.
It was Chisenhall's first homer off a lefty all season, and it was the fifth time Price has served up a homer to a fellow southpaw in the postseason.
"He's difficult," said Chisenhall, "but he's around the zone. So you just try to be aggressive."
The truth is that Price, who gave up an infield single and a walk to set up another run in the fourth, simply doesn't have the overpowering stuff he once did, and the Red Sox knew that when they made him their chief offseason target. But team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski thought enough of Price from their shared time together in Detroit to know he not only had the guile to make the most of his breaking balls, sinkers and changeups but also the ability to step up in big moments.
"He pitched the last game of the regular season [in 2014]," Dombrowski recalled. "We needed a win, and he pitched a shutout."
That guy didn't show up Friday, and neither did the Boston bats, which fell almost totally silent against an on-point (and, yes, very healthy) Corey Kluber.
And so the narrative surrounding Price doesn't end. He hasn't won as a starter in October, so, until further notice, he can't win in October. Price can change that narrative with a sterling start, but the outcome here these last two days has made it pressingly possible that the next October start doesn't come for at least another year, if at all.
"I know good things are coming to me in October baseball," Price said. "I know that."
For now, he's got those two wins. As a reliever. And for a man supposedly "saving up" his postseason prowess, that's no saving grace.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.