Red Sox

Drellich: Price's path to Boston redemption unfolding as he rehabs

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Drellich: Price's path to Boston redemption unfolding as he rehabs

BOSTON — You can start to see it. Late innings, American League Championship Series. David Price on the mound.

We're trending that way.

Once it became clear Price was in position to return closer to the start of October than September, a different sort of path to redemption materialized.

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Maybe Price will barely pitch in the regular season, if at all. Maybe he’ll be strictly a reliever in the postseason. Or maybe he’ll be able to build up his pitch count as the playoffs move along, and he can join the rotation after initially returning in relief.

Any amount of Price in the playoffs, be it for two innings or eight, is valuable. As long as Price is pitching like he’s capable of, or close to it. The debate over what role he’ll take is a little pointless — whatever you can get out of him, you take it. As long as the health of his arm has not led to diminished stuff and performance. (Rust is probably inevitable, but a rusty Price is better than a lot of others, and it's not like you have November to worry about.)

Turn to tandem starters if you want to, piggybacking Price off say, four innings of Doug Fister in Game 4 of the Division Series.

However it unfolds, the groundwork is here. It’s been there, clearly marked. 

The narrative about Price could swing rather dramatically this October. The lefty could take on a knight-in-shining-armor persona, swooping in just in time to give the Red Sox pitching staff the extra boost it will need behind Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and an offense that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.

Price on Saturday faced hitters for the first time as he comes back from his significant elbow injury this year. He threw a two-inning sim game at Fenway Park and his next step is another sim game, 

“Got through today fine: 32 pitches,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “As we intended to take care of the work today, which he was able to accomplish with no ill effects. A good step obviously in his progression to game activity. At a minimum, he’ll go through another sim game situation in the coming days, four or five days from now. That schedule has yet to be worked out given the day game on Thursday and time constraints with that. But today, a good day.”

Not all fans and media would immediately welcome back Price with open arms. Most probably would. But everyone should have an open mind and remember how capable a pitcher he is. A bad postseason record to date does not mean he cannot and will not, at some point, perform well in the playoffs. His track record gives you reason to doubt, but not reason to write him off completely.

If Price returns only as a reliever, people will still grumble and say, “Let’s see him do it as a starter.” That won’t be fair. He can only do what he’s asked, and what he’s physically capable of doing. If he's a reliever this postseason, accept it. 

What will matter is that Price, if given the chance, seizes it. And it won’t be easy having missed so much time.

“As he’s gone through this type of return before, it’s been with this type of intensity every fifth day,” Farrell said. “I think after the next sim game setting like this, we’ll have a chance to sit down and talk with him, what’s the best path as far as what the role could be. We’re not at that point yet.”

If Price gets hurt again and suffers a setback and winds up on an operating table, a debate about whether he should have sooner gone for surgery will ensue. If his UCL can hold up, he can help the Red Sox this October just as much as he can help his own standing in Boston.

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

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