Price, not Sale, gets nod for potential G5 clincher

LOS ANGELES – After the Boston Red Sox stunned the Los Angeles Dodgers by rallying from a 4-0 deficit to score nine runs over the final three innings and pull out a 9-6 victory in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night, manager Alex Cora made another stunning announcement as he was walking out the door after his postgame news conference: “David Price is starting tomorrow.”

One reporter yelled out, “You buried the lede.”

Cora responded, “Nobody asked.”

Nobody asked because the Red Sox had announced earlier Saturday that Chris Sale would be the Game 5 starter and the left-hander met with the media, as the starting pitcher for the next game usually does. Cora said Sale is fine and is still the scheduled starter for Game 6 if the series returns to Boston, but he said he and his staff had discussed the idea earlier in the day and that he informed Price and Sale after Game 4 that the team was changing plans.

Cora’s stated explanation was simply that the team likes Price in the National League park, which could be a reflection of not wanting Sale to hit. Sale has been battling a sore shoulder since August and had two separate stints on the disabled list.

He also lost a reported 10 pounds after a stomach illness suffered after starting Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros. His average velocity on his four-seam fastball, which averaged 97 to 98 mph during his summer peak, had fallen to 92.0 mph against the Astros in the ALCS, although rebounded to 93.7 in his Game 1 start against the Dodgers.

The Red Sox have insisted all along that Sale is fine, although clearly he’s not the same pitcher he was in the first half of the season. Earlier Saturday, Sale had said, “I’m ready to go. I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Still, the announcement in the shift to Price was a surprise.

The veteran lefty started Game 2 on Wednesday, throwing 88 pitches over six innings. He then threw 13 pitches in a relief appearance in Game 3. Obviously, the shift to Price was a late decision by Cora and his staff, otherwise he wouldn’t have appeared in Game 3.

Price will be starting on three days’ rest since his last start. He did that in Game 5 of the ALCS — when the Red Sox also skipped a Sale start – and had the best outing of his postseason career, tossing six scoreless innings with a playoff career high of nine strikeouts. Against the Dodgers in Game 2, he allowed two runs in six innings. Price, who entered this postseason with an 0-8 record in nine career starts and then lost his first start in the ALDS, now has won two in a row.

On Sunday, he’ll be matched up against Clayton Kershaw, another starter with a somewhat checkered postseason history. Kershaw, slim chance as it may be, could be pitching his final game in a Dodgers uniform. He’s expected to exercise an opt-out clause in his contract and elect to test free agency, although the expectations are that he would still return to the Dodgers.

It all also means that for the first time in a long time, Price will be making a postseason start where there is more pressure on the other starter. Kershaw will be pitching to keep the Dodgers’ season alive.

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