It only took two seasons together in Boston for the well-compensated starting pitching duo of David Price and Chris Sale to win their first World Series title with the Red Sox. The interesting part with exactly how 2018 unfolded is what their roles morphed into come October: Price finally earned his first playoff win as a starter in the series-clinching Game 5 in Houston and became the ace overnight (winning both of his World Series starts) while Sale gutted through an obvious injury (to his left shoulder?) but still managed to get the last three outs (striking out the side) in Game 5 at Los Angeles. When Price was signed as a high-profile free agent three winters ago and then Boston traded a bunch of prospects for Sale-one of the best pitchers in MLB-the following winter, no doubt the Red Sox analytics department forecasted much success and titles in the near future. Still, even that group (which had basically a flawless 2018 regular season and postseason) couldn’t have predicted the way that this would play out.
Price’s career-altering postseason run is hard to quantify in terms of comparing it to any other Boston athlete or even in professional sports in general. In his first 10 career playoff starts, his team (Tampa Bay, Detroit, Toronto and Boston) lost every single one of them. Game 2 against the Astros was far from a gem (4.2 IP, 5 hits, 4 ER, 4 Ks, 4 BBs) but at least he experienced a team win as the Red Sox hung on for a 7-5 victory. He rightfully called that baby steps and followed it up with an outstanding outing: 6 scoreless IP, 3 hits, 9 Ks, 0 BBs as Boston ended the season for the defending champs. He upped the ante against the Dodgers as both times he started on three days rest (along with 2 outs in relief in the 18-inning Game 3 loss) but still managed to shut down another top-notch opponent. In Game 2 at freezing Fenway Park, he went six innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits with five strikeouts and three walks as Boston won 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. He earned the honor of starting Game 5 and he delivered on manager Alex Cora’s constant vote of confidence in him. In the biggest start of his life, Price went seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
Unlike Price, Sale had endeared himself to Boston from Day 1 with his no-nonsense approach to his job. He never makes excuses for poor performances and we can only wait and see what he was playing through at the end of the regular season and throughout the postseason since he clearly labored through something serious. Due to his compromised position, his velocity was noticeably down and he couldn’t be counted on for his typical long outings. However, he started Game 1 vs. Yankees and went 5.1 innings in an eventual 5-4 Red Sox win. He also pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the series clinching Game 4 at Yankee Stadium. He only lasted four innings in a Game 2 loss vs. Houston and he also went four innings in Game 1 vs. LA but the Red Sox won that one 8-4.
The Red Sox parade took place on Halloween but we already know that at least for 2019, Price and Sale will remain here. On Tuesday, Boston picked up Sale’s player option for next season while Price noted on Wednesday that he would choose not to opt out of his deal with the Sox and become a free agent. With good health, the AL East and AL should continue to run through Red Sox thanks to this pair of outstanding pitchers not to mention the plethora of talent behind them.