BOSTON – Eight minutes in, a festive Fenway Park had turned funereal. Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros already was upside down, and the fickle fans had started booing, and it looked as though the Red Sox’s seasons was over, and then – well, then October happened.
It’s easy to blame this month, where playoff baseball takes place, for all of the oddities that come of it. Sunday was bizarro Boston. In what other world would David Price, $217 million relief pitcher and postseason goat, be a hero in here? And where else would Hanley Ramirez, benched for Game 1 of the series, join him in the embrace of Fenway? And how else would these Red Sox, dead in the first, storm back to put up double-digit runs in a 10-3 season-saving victory?
Trying to answer those questions is like asking to solve Hilbert’s Problems. Some things simply have no clear explanation, and how the Red Sox rebounded from a 3-0 deficit less than 10 minutes into the game to save their season and force a Game 4 is one of those best left appreciated instead of answered.
Here’s the thrust: With the Red Sox ahead 4-3 after 20-year-old Rafael Devers became the fifth-youngest player in MLB history to hit a postseason home run, Price, the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, entered as a reliever. His tender elbow had limited him to that role, and he has embraced it as he did as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Rays, when he dominated out of the bullpen.
This was more of a long-relief role, bridging the middle innings to one of the Red Sox’s strengths: the back end of their bullpen. With the Astros chasing Boston starter Doug Fister after 1 1/3 innings, the Red Sox needed every one of Price’s four shutout innings. He stretched himself out to 57 pitches, struck out four and left both elated fans and perhaps manager John Farrell wondering: If the Red Sox advance to the ALCS, does Price shift back to the rotation?
Ramirez’s spot as DH is not in question. The Game 1 starter, Eduardo Nunez, tweaked his knee in the game’s second at-bat and will miss the rest of the postseason. Ramirez singled, doubled, singled and doubled again the seventh inning, the last with the bases loaded. Two runs scored, staking the Red Sox to a 10-3 lead held up by setup man Addison Reed and mop-up man Carson Smith, who pitched around a pair of singles to record a scoreless ninth inning.
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