Entering Thursday night’s ALCS Game 5, if you had told Red Sox fans both David Price and Craig Kimbrel would be used, they would have asked, “By how many runs did the Red Sox lose?” Price had a career 5.42 postseason ERA and Kimbrel had allowed runs in all four appearances this postseason.
Price, contrary to the narrative, pitched excellently. He spun six shutout innings, limiting the Astros to three hits while walking none and striking out nine on 93 pitches. The only other postseason appearance he had in which he tossed at least four scoreless innings in the playoffs was in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Astros last year when he was used in relief. It was by far his most successful playoff start.
The difference was his change-up. According to Brooks Baseball, Price used his change-up 22 percent of the time. He threw 19 total change-ups out of his 122 pitches (15.6%) in his previous two playoff starts, per MLB.com’s Andrew Simon. In Game 5, he threw 38 change-ups (41%).
Of Price’s nine strikeouts, five were finished with the change-up, sending Astros hitters chasing. Springer in the first, Correa and Gonzalez in the fourth, Kemp in the fifth, and Altuve in the sixth. Astros hitters made contact with only 12 of those 38 change-ups and they had an average exit velocity of 72 MPH — quite weak. Eight were fouled off and four were put in play for outs.
Price clearly found something that worked, but his change-up can’t become a crutch. Whichever team, between the Dodgers and Brewers, meets up with the Red Sox will do their due diligence, poring over Price’s start against the Astros pitch-by-pitch. Price did it once successfully. Now he has to do it again, this time in the World Series.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.