Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 17, 2018 – Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
Nobody in the world expected that to happen. Maybe you thought David Price would pitch a good game, but nobody expected him to pitch six scoreless innings while striking out nine without allowing a walk. Maybe you expected Price to outpitch Justin Verlander on short rest, but you were certainly in the minority. That playoff start was one of the best in recent memory, but where does the David Price playoff start rank, historically speaking, in the great Red Sox playoff performances of recent memory?
Where Does the David Price Playoff Start Rank Among Great Red Sox Performances?
The Red Sox starters have put up some great starts in this postseason run, but none like Price’s last night. The closest we have in 2018 is likely Nathan Eovaldi’s gem against the New York Yankees. In that game, Eovaldi went seven innings, allowing one run and five strikeouts without allowing a walk.
Make no mistakes, this was a fantastic outing, and one the Red Sox desperately needed. Had the Red Sox lost that game, they would have been staring down elimination with a game left in Yankee Stadium. However, even though Eovaldi went one inning deeper, he allowed an extra run and struck out two fewer batters. Additionally, he was pitching on full rest, while Price was on three days rest. This isn’t meant to be a shot at Eovaldi – he’s been fantastic – but this is just to highlight how great Price was.
Comparing Price to 2013
The 2016 and 2017 Red Sox starting pitching was terrible in the postseason, so you’ll need to go all the way back to 2013 to find the next contender. Postseason legend Jon Lester had arguably the best start of his postseason career against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the World Series. During that 8-1 win, Lester went 7.2 scoreless innings, striking out eight batters while allowing just one walk and five hits.
One series before that, John Lackey pitched an eerily-similar game to David Price’s recent gem. Lackey outdueled Justin Verlander himself, tossing 6.2 scoreless innings. During those 6.2 frames, Lackey allowed just five hits while striking out eight and not allowing a walk.
Honestly, all three of these starts were absolute masterpieces and are hard to rank. Each player didn’t allow a run, so we’re obviously talking about pure greatness here. Lester went the deepest into his game but allowed more hits and walks while striking out fewer batters than Lackey and Price. Price “only” went six innings but struck out the most batters and arguably faced the best team of the three. It’s a cop out, but ranking any of these performances above the others would be blasphemous. Let’s call it a three-way tie.
Going Back Even Further
The only other player since the turn of the decade to have a postseason start close to this was Josh Beckett in 2007. Facing off against the Angels in the ALDS, Beckett pitched a complete game, shutting out the Angles while striking out five, walking nobody, allowing just four hits.
As fantastic as Price, Lester, and Lackey were, this one probably takes the cake from a pure statistical standpoint. Only Price had more strikeouts and fewer hits allowed, and Lester’s 7.2 innings pitched are the next closest to Beckett’s complete game.
Granted, the 2007 Angels were nowhere near as good as the 2013 Tigers, 2013 Cardinals, or the 2018 Astros. That said, a start like that is impressive no matter who you’re facing. Beckett came up huge in the first postseason game of what would end up being a World Series campaign.
This start takes the cake as the best in recent memory, but Price, Lackey, and Lester are not far behind it. No matter how you want to rank them, take a minute to appreciate how fortunate we are to even be having this conversation. The Red Sox went without a title for 86 years, and now they have a chance to win their fourth title in 15 years. Boston sports, in general, has had an unprecedented level of success over the past few years. Enjoy every second of the ride.