HOUSTON (USA TODAY Sports) -- Astros starter Justin Verlander entered Thursday’s Game 5 fully rested, and riding a stretch of three straight scoreless starts when his team faced elimination in the postseason. Boston Red Sox starter David Price entered it working on short rest for the first time since 2008, after warming up in the bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings during Wednesday’s Game 4, with an ugly 6.16 ERA across 11 career postseason starts.
You’ll never believe what happens next.
Price was spectacular, relying on a devastating changeup to steamroll his way through Houston’s deep lineup. Generating weak contact and a series of ugly, off-balanced swings and misses, Price threw six scoreless innings, allowed only three hits, struck out nine Astros, and walked none in the Red Sox’ series-clinching 4-1 win.
Verlander, meanwhile, was just OK. The AL Cy Young favorite allowed a long solo homer to J.D. Martinez that gave the Red Sox a one-run lead in the third, but otherwise kept Boston off the board until the sixth. But after hits by the first two Red Sox hitters of the inning, Rafael Devers smacked an opposite-field fly ball that eked over the wall in left to give Boston a 4-0 lead.
Marwin Gonzalez put the Astros on the board with a solo homer off reliever Matt Barnes in the seventh, but the Red Sox’ bullpen was able to maintain the lead Price handed them.
Verlander was humming along until the sixth inning, with a Martinez’s third-inning homer the only blemish on his pitching line. But after Verlander allowed a leadoff double to Mitch Moreland and a single to Ian Kinsler, Devers got a first-pitch fastball up in the strike zone and drove it 359 feet to the opposite field and into Minute Maid Park’s short porch in left. Devers’ homer provided Price and the Red Sox’s bullpen with some breathing room in what had been a tight game.
Man of the moment
Price and it’s not close. Even ignoring the circumstances, Thursday’s outing marked undoubtedly the best postseason start of Price’s career. That he should do it on short rest for a club that desperately needed innings only amplifies the heroics.
State of the Red Sox
On to the World Series. By finishing with the best record in MLB during the regular season, Boston ensured home-field advantage for the length of its postseason run, so the Red Sox will host Game 1 at Fenway Park on Tuesday. The four days off between now and then means manager Alex Cora will have his pick of pitching options, but Chris Sale will likely get the start. Sale spent Game 2 of the ALCS in the hospital due to stomach issues and was not ready to return to action in time for Game 5, but the Red Sox planned to start him as soon as Saturday’s scheduled Game 6, had it been necessary.
State of the Astros
Unable to defend their 2017 championship, the Astros head home after a year that saw them win 103 games in the regular and cruise past the Cleveland Indians in a three-game ALDS sweep. While the Astros may lose a couple of key contributors to free agency, the majority of their strong lineup and three out of five starting pitchers should be back for 2019. Barring a calamitous spate of spring-training injuries, they should open next season as favorites to win their third straight AL West pennant.