LOS ANGELES -- After the Boston Red Sox stunned the Los Angeles Dodgers by rallying from a 4-0 deficit to score nine runs in the final three innings and pull off a 9-6 victory in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, manager Alex Cora made another stunning announcement as he was walking out the door after his postgame news conference: "David Price is starting tomorrow."
One reporter yelled out, "You buried the lede!"
Cora responded, "Nobody asked."
Nobody asked because the Red Sox announced earlier Saturday that Chris Sale would be the Game 5 starter, and the left-hander met with the media, as the starting pitcher for the next game usually does. Cora said Sale was fine and still the scheduled starter for Game 6 if the series returned to Boston, but he said he and his staff discussed the idea earlier in the day, and he informed Price and Sale after Game 4 that the team was changing plans.
Cora's stated explanation was that the team likes Price in the National League park, which could also be a reflection of not wanting Sale to hit. Sale has been battling a sore shoulder since August and had two stints on the disabled list.
"We talked about it before the game, and this is a good spot for David, in a National League park, to start a game. Obviously, he's been throwing the ball well," Cora said. "It's not that we're playing with the [3-1] lead, but we feel that for the team, for where we're at pitching-wise, it's good to go with David."
Sale lost a reported 10 pounds from a stomach illness following his start in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros. His velocity on his four-seam fastball, which averaged 97 to 98 mph during his summer peak, fell to 92.0 mph against the Astros in the ALCS, though he rebounded to 93.7 in his Game 1 start against the Dodgers.
The Red Sox have insisted all along that Sale is fine, though clearly he isn't the same pitcher he was in the first half of the season. Earlier Saturday, Sale said, "I'm ready to go. I'm excited for the opportunity."
Still, the announcement in the shift to Price was a surprise. The veteran lefty started Game 2 on Wednesday, throwing 88 pitches over six innings. He then threw 13 pitches in a relief appearance in Game 3. Obviously, the shift to Price was a late decision by Cora and his staff. Otherwise, he wouldn't have appeared in Game 3.
Price will be starting on three days' rest since his last start. He did that in Game 5 of the ALCS -- when the Red Sox also skipped a Sale start -- and had the best outing of his postseason career, tossing six scoreless innings with a playoff-career high of nine strikeouts. Against the Dodgers in Game 2, he gave up two runs in six innings. Price, who entered this postseason with an 0-8 record in nine career postseason starts and lost his first start in the ALDS, now has won two in a row.
On Sunday, he'll be matched against Clayton Kershaw, another starter with a somewhat checkered postseason history. Kershaw, slim chance as it might be, could be pitching his final game in a Dodgers uniform. He's expected to exercise an opt-out clause in his contract and elect to test free agency, though the predictions are that he will still return to the Dodgers.
It all means that for the first time in a long time, Price will be making a postseason start in which there is more pressure on the other starter. Kershaw will be pitching to keep the Dodgers' season alive.