BOSTON -- As David Price walked off Fenway Park's pitcher's mound on Sunday, the sold-out crowd gave him something he has seldom heard in the postseason in his career: applause.
It was while departing in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series that the Boston Red Sox starter received an ovation from appreciative fans. After 4⅔ innings of five-hit ball, the Fenway faithful recognized that although he wasn't going to factor in the decision, Price pitched just well enough to keep his team in the ballgame. About four innings later, the Red Sox earned a 7-5 win over the Houston Astros, evening the ALCS at 1-1.
For Price, the victory had meaning beyond being a game that helped the Red Sox inch closer to a World Series ring.
"That's my first team win as a starter," Price said, smiling.
That's a big deal. Entering Sunday's game, Price's teams -- he has pitched in the playoffs with Tampa Bay, Detroit and Toronto in his 11-year career -- had gone 0-10 in the 10 career postseason starts he had made.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was by far the most consecutive losses for a pitcher's team to start a postseason career in major league history. Vida Blue's and Doyle Alexander's teams went winless across each pitcher's first six career postseason starts.
"If it's baby steps," Price said, "it's baby steps."
Clearly, the 33-year-old lefty has been troubled by his ignominious postseason record. He said he believes it doesn't showcase just how good of a pitcher he is. Nor does it suggest that he wants to be a winner, he adds.
"You can ask any of my teammates for the 10 years I've been in the big leagues -- or coaches or anybody that's been around me. All I want to do is win," Price said. "I expect myself to be great in big moments, and I haven't done that thus far in my career.
"But I came here to win -- period. I came here to win a World Series and to do it multiple times. ... I understand the narratives. I get that. I deserve those narratives. But this is bigger than David Price. This isn't about me. This is about the Boston Red Sox."
For the Red Sox on Sunday, Price was effective enough. After allowing four runs in his first three innings, he settled down for a 1-2-3 fourth.
With the Red Sox up 5-4, Price got two quick outs in the fifth, then surrendered a pair of walks. After the second walk, manager Alex Cora pulled Price from the game to the adoring affection of the fans.
"It's definitely appreciated," Price said of the ovation. "It wasn't the line I dreamed up to have, but our offense, our defense, everybody rallied together. That's what we've done all year. Whenever starters needed to be picked up, they picked us up, and vice versa."
Cora was generally pleased with the outing.
"He gave his team a chance to win," Cora said. "We got to clean a few things up, but overall his stuff was good. Command was good, and he gave us a chance to win."
Price's teammates echoed that sentiment, contending that they continue to believe in the starter, regardless of his lack of postseason success.
"No matter what you say about him, he's a great pitcher," Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts said. "He's a competitor, for sure. He has that dominant presence on the mound, and he showed it [Sunday]."
Price mentioned before the game that his primary objective was to establish his fastball. He certainly did that, attacking Astros hitters with variations of it. Of his 80 total pitches, all but nine were two-seam, four-seam or cut fastballs. The remainder were changeups.
The first two runs Price allowed came off a soft second-inning line drive that Astros center fielder George Springer hit to just the right spot. Jammed with two outs and two runners in scoring position, Springer inside-outed a 92.5 mph four-seam fastball on the inner half. He hit it just out of the reach of a diving Steve Pearce at first base. As the ball bounced into the outfield, Carlos Correa and Martin Maldonado scored, putting the Astros on the board.
When Price finally exited in the fifth, the Red Sox's bullpen was called upon to shut down one of the most potent offenses in baseball. Aside from Springer scoring off Jose Altuve's two-out, RBI single off the Green Monster in the ninth, Boston's bullpen did its job.
"They've got good arms down there," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's just a matter of them coming in executing. We just couldn't find the hits until the ninth inning. We found a couple walks, we had pressure on them a lot, and it felt like a game where you were going to have to capitalize on more opportunities because of the nature of the game."