BOSTON -- No pitcher of recent vintage has been more dominant against the Boston Red Sox than David Price, who was back on the mound Saturday night for his first postseason appearance against Boston since 2008.
Back then, he was a Tampa Bay Rays rookie phenom, coming out of the bullpen to close out the Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series for his first and only career save.
Price drew the start Saturday night in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, having gone 10-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 20 career regular-season starts against Boston.
"I can't give you all my secrets," Price said Friday before Game 1 when asked why he has been so successful against the Red Sox. "Pitching in this ballpark, pitching against that team, it makes you want it just a little bit more."
But the secret was out on Saturday as the Red Sox battered Price to the tune of seven earned runs in seven-plus innings in their 7-4 win over Tampa Bay, sending the 28-year-old ace to 0-4 in four career postseason starts. The Red Sox had never managed to score more than four runs off Price in a single game before Saturday.
"Absolutely, I'm disappointed," Price said. "I don't know what my stat line was, but I know I gave up quite a few earned runs. It stinks, especially in the postseason when you want to go out there and pitch your best."
The Red Sox had Price's number from the get-go. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury blooped a single to right on Price's second pitch of the game before stealing second and advancing to third on a throwing error by Rays catcher Jose Molina. Ellsbury would score on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly, which was followed by a David Ortiz solo home run, his first off Price in 42 plate appearances.
The Red Sox tacked on two runs in the third and one apiece in the fourth and fifth to open things up against the 2012 AL Cy Young winner. After a flawless sixth and seventh innings, Price came back out for the eighth with the Rays trailing 6-4. Two pitches later, Ortiz went deep again for the first multi-home-run game a left-handed batter has had against Price.
"I thought David [Price] had really good stuff right up to the last pitch," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He had just had a really good seventh inning and then all of a sudden hangs a fastball to Ortiz, who hits another home run.
"He did not throw the ball badly at all. It was kind of a weird night the way everything set up for them and against us."
Price agreed with that assessment.
"They had some broken-bat singles and broken-bat doubles and 305-foot fly balls go for doubles and triples," he said. "That's part of pitching in this park. They played extremely well and tonight just wasn't my night."
As Maddon put it, the Rays were "out Fenway'd" on Saturday night, victims of several perfectly placed hits and quirky caroms. They find themselves facing elimination as they head back to Tampa for the first time since Sept. 23, a 10-game, five-city span.
It's a tough task to be sure, but a comeback isn't out of the realm of possibility.
"We just went through a week of backs against the wall, so it's not going to be new to us," Maddon said. "It's going to be difficult, there's no question about it. But I don't think it's impossible by any means. We've been in this boat in the past and we've forced Game 5s in those situations also."
The Rays must win two games at home to force a winner-take-all Game 5 back at Fenway.
"We've been playing Game 7s for the last three games," Price said. "Our game in Toronto was a Game 7. Our game in Texas was a Game 7. Our game in Cleveland was a Game 7. This is nothing we're not used to."
Speaking in his office attached to a desolate clubhouse, all lockers emptied, Maddon said that Price would be back on the mound for a potential Game 5 at Fenway, no ifs about it.