David Price outduels Justin Verlander, sends Red Sox to World Series

51 Comments

David Price helped pitch the Red Sox into the World Series on Thursday night, winning Game 5 of the ALCS in Houston against the Astros. He outdueled Justin Verlander in the process as the Red Sox went on to win 4-1.

It was a close game for a while, as the only run scored between the first and fifth innings by either side was a J.D. Martinez solo home run in the top of the third. Rafael Devers broke the game open in top of the sixth, giving Price plenty of cushion. Mitch Moreland led off with a double to left field and Ian Kinsler pushed him to third base with a single to right. Devers came up and swung at a letters-high 98 MPH fastball, sending to to left field where it landed just a couple of rows into the Crawford Boxes for a three-run homer.

Price looked locked in on the mound, repeatedly peppering the corners of the strike zone. Of his nine strikeouts, three were looking and six were swinging. He limited the Astros to just three hits without issuing a walk over six innings of work. May the “David Price can’t pitch in the playoffs” narrative rest in peace.

Marwin González put the Astros on the board in the bottom of the seventh against Matt Barnes, hitting an opposite-field solo homer into the Crawford Boxes, a little bit further than Devers’ dinger went. The seventh was otherwise uneventful, with Barnes getting two outs and Nathan Eovaldi one. Eovaldi remained in the game for the eighth, working around a two-out single by George Springer to send the game into the ninth inning.

Despite closer Craig Kimbrel‘s pronounced struggles throughout the postseason, manager Alex Cora called on him once again to close it out. A three-run lead with three outs to go normally feels safe, but Red Sox fans were anything but calm watching him jog to the mound. Kimbrel worked around a one-out walk of Yuli Gurriel, striking out Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez before getting Tony Kemp to fly out to left-center to end the game.

The Red Sox are back in the World Series for the first time since 2013, when they defeated the Cardinals in six games. The 2018 World Series will begin on Tuesday, so the Red Sox will have four days off. They await the winner of the NLCS. The Dodgers currently lead the Brewers three games to two.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
4 Comments

Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.