LOS ANGELES — It's late October and David Price is unflappable.
Pitching in the World Series, his first fastball of the night misses its spot and David Freese slaps it into the left field bleaches.
One pitch, one home run.
For the Price of playoff past, this is where the unraveling may have begun. After one thing went wrong, mistakes had a knack for compounding on Price, and the lefty's starts would soon spiral beyond his control.
But not anymore. Not this David Price.
The Price of playoff present took a deep breath, regained his composure, and didn't allow another Dodger to score in seven masterful innings.
He delivered a legendary start in Game 5, the winning pitcher as Boston clinched a World Series in Alex Cora's first season as Red Sox manager. Never again should the lefty hear a barb about his $217 million contract.
Price was worth every penny this postseason.
Strong in an ALCS upset of the defending champion Astros, Price took his game to another level in the World Series, allowing 3 runs in 13 1/3 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Games 2 and 5, didn't allow a run in a hey-we-could-really-use-you relief appearance, and was a rock that the Sox rotation sorely needed.
Cora deserves a heck of a lot of credit for Price's October transformation; the lefty's confidence has never been higher.
After a disastrous playoff debut against the Yankees, Cora could have very easily — and justifiably — relegated Price to the bullpen, or tried to use an opener for him.
Instead, Cora pointed to a bad matchup with New York rather than bad track record. He was adamant that he believed in a pitcher whose teams were 0-10 in his 10 playoff starts.
Price has made Cora look very, very intelligent for trusting him.
The lefty took "baby steps" in his first ALCS start — picking up a team win for the first time — and Fenway Park gave him a standing ovation for four runs over 4 2/3.
There was a noticeable difference in Price's demeanor after that.
After throwing 40 pitches warming in the Houston bullpen as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency Game 4 option, Price knew he'd have a Game 5 start on three days rest. He brought his son, Xavier, to that press conference and was at ease as he held the one-year-old.
A night later, Price threw six brilliant innings to eliminate the Astros, and win his first career playoff start in the process.
"I don’t have to prepare myself for that in spring training," Price said of the playoff win that dogged him. "February 20th or when September rolls around and I’ve still got five regular-season starts. I don’t have to answer that question anymore. That feels good.”
Price has pitched like a guy that chucked a 217 million pound monkey off his back. He looked so good that Cora shuffled the rotation so Price would start again on short rest.
Let that sink in for a second.
Alex Cora moved Chris Sale back in the World Series rotation so that David Price could start a potential close-out game.
"It's a full go. He's done it before. He's in a good place, not only mentally but physically," Cora said before Game 5. "Right now he’s throwing the ball well. He’s fresh as far as like his arm. Body-wise and arm-wise, his best movement of the season."
That movement kept the Dodgers off balance all night; Price was dominant in allowing one run on three hits.
"When he's on the mound, we have the utmost confidence in the guy," Steve Pearce said. "He's a bulldog, he's competitive, and he wants to win. When he's on the mound, we feel that and we're confident playing behind him."
When one of those teammates, J.D. Martinez, completely misplayed a ball in left field, Price picked him up.
With a cotton candy sky over Chavez Ravine at twilight, Martinez lost a deep fly ball in the lights. Throwing his hands up helplessly, the ball landed beyond the left fielder, and Freese wound up on third with a one-out triple.
Hanging in to a 2-1 lead, this was a spot where Price could have puddled in the past.
The lefty was able to bear down, getting a weak grounder to hold the tying run at third, then a foul pop out ended the inning. In the Red Sox dugout, a relieved Martinez met Price with a forearm bump. The pitcher has grown into a guy unfazed by the spotlight.
From there, Price ensured nobody would remember Martinez's play; he retired the next 14 Dodgers he faced.
A Cy Young winner, Price has always been capable of pitching this well in October. With an assist from Cora, he's has realized that potential, and now Price has a World Series ring to show for it.
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email Chris at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @bychrismason