CLEVELAND -- Starting pitchers are known for their preparation. There are scouting reports to review, video to watch, game plans to assemble.
But David Price got a head start on Friday's assignment. He started getting ready for it 10 months ago.
Of course, Price didn't know his opponent then, or where the game would be. For that matter, he couldn't be sure it was going to happen this year. Still, he was already preparing.
At his introductory Boston press conference last December, Price was fairly chomping at the bit. He had signed a seven-year, $217 million deal and one of the first questions he faced was his less-than-glorious track record in the postseason -- 0-7 as a starting pitcher.
"I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox,'' said Price.
It was a line he had obviously planned, but there was an undeniable charm to it. Price seemed to understand, even then, that his playoff struggles would be a talking point and he addressed it with some self-deprecation.
On Friday, the talk stops and the bill comes due.
It's games like these for which the Red Sox are paying. Sure, there are 30-something starting assignments during the regular season, some bigger than others. Those are part of the job, too.
But the games in October are the most important ones. The rest are just dress rehearsals.
Price's first regular season in Boston was, at best, mixed. He pitched brilliantly for stretches, but it's impossible to dismiss that there were stretches where he was downright mediocre -- or worse.
He doggedly insisted that he wasn't overwhelmed by the expectations, but that seemed like a stretch. He wouldn't be the first highly paid star to trip up in his first season in town, and he surely won't be the last.
Regardless of the reason, the Red Sox didn't shell out almost a $1 million per start for a pitcher with a 3.99 ERA. Sure, he ate innings, sure he racked up strikeouts, and sure he competed.
But weren't the Red Sox expecting more?
Price isn't the only big-name, big-ticket starter to historically have his problems in the postseason. So has three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. Roger Clemens, who won seven Cy Youngs, didn't get the hang of pitching in October until well into his 30s.
When the Red Sox set their postseason rotation, they tabbed Rick Porcello to start Game 1. In theory, that should have taken some heat off Price.
But Thursday night's 5-4 loss changed all of that. If anything, there's more riding on Price's outing, since the Sox can ill afford to return home trailing 2-0.
"I want to help this team win,'' asserted Price. "That's the bottom line. And [Friday] I want to go out there and win. I want to be dominant. I want to have that really good postseason game and I know that I'm capable of doing that.''
To his credit, Price never sought excuses when he underachieved this season, even as he grew tired of repeating some variation of "I have to be better,'' after every sub-standard outing.
But Friday afternoon, he does have to be better.