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Red Sox’s David Price sheds 10-year wait of finally winning first postseason start

This multiple exposure shows Red Sox starting pitcher David Price throwing during the first inning of Game 2 of the World Series against the  Dodgers on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Associated Press)
This multiple exposure shows Red Sox starting pitcher David Price throwing during the first inning of Game 2 of the World Series against the Dodgers on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Associated Press)
Published Oct. 25, 2018
Updated Oct. 25, 2018

BOSTON — The bromide is that you always remember your first one, and David Price certainly does.

But his second World Series is turning out to be even better, as Price delivered a dominant outing Wednesday to lead the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the Dodgers and two-games-to-none lead.

"It's huge," Price said afterward. "This is the biggest stage in baseball. 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. I'm pumped for myself, pumped for all my teammates and coaches for us to be two wins away … that's a good feeling."

Understandably, his 2008 World Series with the Rays was a bit of a blur.

Drafted first overall in 2007, Price ascended rapidly through the minors in his first pro season, earning A's as he worked his way from Vero Beach to Montgomery to Durham, then to the majors in mid-September. He pitched five times during the regular season and made a couple of quick relief outings before getting the four huge Boston outs to close out the AL Championship Series that extended that improbable 2008 season to the Series chapter.

Ten long years later, he's back.

Even before he took the mound, the second time felt more significant.

"I think I do appreciate it more now,'' Price said. "In 2008, when we were able to get to the World Series, I had two weeks in the big leagues before the playoffs. I was fortunate enough to be on the roster. … I hadn't been through the grind of 162 games. Or through a full spring training. Hadn't spent those 8-9 months with the same guys in the clubhouse.

"At this point in my career, to have been through the struggles I've been through in October, to have been through as many seasons as I've been through, and to be able to get back to that point now, it feels very special.''

Price is 33 now, and there is a lot he has done in the game.

Co-headlines? Winning 20 games and a Cy Young for the Rays in 2012, and earning the largest contract for a pitcher when he signed a seven-year, $217 million pact with the Sox during the 2015 offseason.

But the postseason, as you might have heard, has been cruel. And, for a guy with a career regular-season record of 143-75, 3.25 over 11 years, somewhat unusual.

Price has now been in the playoffs nine times with four teams, but he has yet to celebrate a championship.

Worse, until Wednesday of last week, he had never won a postseason start. With what he did this Wednesday against the Dodgers, he has now won two straight.

"I'm very happy for him," Boston manager Alex Cora said after Game 2. "He was amazing tonight. He was into it, too. I don't think he liked the fact that I took him out in the 6th, I'll tell you that."

Eleven times before this year's ALCS Game 5, Price had thrown the first pitch for his team and had an ugly 0-9, 6.16 mark.

Which explains a couple of things.

Why he described that sterling six shutout-innings outing against the Astros, which clinched the return to the Series, as "one of the most special days I've ever had on a baseball field.''

Why he acted uncharacteristically like it was a such a big deal, pounding his chest and screaming for all to see.

"Pitching in a game to put your team in the World Series and you got 18 outs and you gave up no runs and we were up 4-0 at that point, that's what that was,'' he said, "I don't care if I was 50-0 in the playoffs up to that point. That was a big game for myself, a big game for the Red Sox. And it just so happened to put us in the World Series, so I'm grateful.''

And why in the days leading up to his first Series start (having made two '08 relief outings) he was fielding touchy-feely questions about his mood after shedding the burden by getting that first postseason W as a starter.

"I guess 'lighter' is a good word, yeah,'' Price said. "(Monday) we had media day. I didn't have to — I got to look forward to it for the first time in a long time. It's definitely a weight lifted off of me for sure. Not like food tastes better or anything like that. But it was time. And I'm definitely glad that the time came and we moved past it.''

Price endured a lot of questions he didn't like as the postseason losses mounted, for the Rays in division series games against Texas (2010, 2011) and Boston (2013), then for the Tigers, Blue Jays and, again earlier this month, for the Red Sox.

He found comfort in the support of family (which now includes 17-month-old son Xavier and wife Tiffany), friends, former teammates, hometown buddies, and he still hasn't gotten through all the congratulatory texts.

"It's cool to get over that hump,'' he said. "That was a big hump to get over, and I did it with the help of all my teammates, all my friends and family. They never altered. Everybody stayed in my corner. That was definitely appreciated.''

Price — whom the Rays traded to Detroit in July 2014 for a package that included Willy Adames — insisted through all the past postseason failures that his confidence remained undented.

And he appreciates the opportunity to keep trying.

"I always enjoy doing this,'' he said. "Just because I failed in October for about nine straight years, it didn't take away my passion from baseball. 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.

"Hopefully I have a whole lot of October baseball left. This is why I came to Boston. I knew we would be in this position, year in and year out, so I'm happy that we have made it to this point, and everybody in our clubhouse, we all want (to win the Series).''

And maybe no one, 10 years later, more than Price.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.