The Toronto Blue Jays kept their World Series hopes alive on Wednesday, defeating the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Toronto is in a good position to force a Game 7, sending their ace to the mound at Kauffman Stadium on Friday. But David Price has a lot to prove when he takes the mound in Game 6.
Despite another stellar regular season, Price has developed a reputation for falling short in the postseason. The left-hander hasn’t been awful in every one of his playoff appearances, but there’s plenty of truth to the idea that Price hasn’t been a big-game pitcher.
After being defeated in Game 2 of the series, Price became the first pitcher to lose his first seven career postseason starts. He cruised through the first six innings, but ended up allowing five earned runs, pushing his 2015 playoff ERA to 7.02. Price gave up five runs in Game 1 of the ALDS, and he was so bad that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons opted to pitch him in relief in Game 4 instead of starting him in the deciding game.
Price has pitched into some bad luck in his playoff career, losing a game last season in which he allowed just two runs over eight innings. But he’s largely been terrible in the playoffs, even though he’s established himself as a top regular-season starter.
The season was arguably the best of Price’s career, finishing with an 18-5 record, a 2.45 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He was arguably the biggest reason Toronto overtook the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East, going 9-1 down the stretch.
The lineup that the Royals used against Price in Game 2 has a combined .293 average against him with a .457 slugging percentage. In 30 at-bats against Price, Alex Rios’ splits are .400/.455/.800, and Lorenzo Cain is four-for-11 with a home run.
If Price falters, Toronto’s league-leading offense could keep them in the game. Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura gets the ball on Friday, and he’s been a disappointment in the playoffs. The 24-year-old was the Royals’ Game 1 starter in the ALDS, allowing three runs in just two innings. Ventura failed to make it beyond the first out in the sixth inning in his next two starts, surrendering six total runs.
Toronto’s roster doesn’t have much experience against Ventura. The Blue Jays scored three runs off of him in their Game 2 loss, and they had a comfortable lead until Price imploded in the seventh inning. Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s top two hitters, both have a home run against Ventura.
Donaldson (.278/.395/.611) has gotten a hit in eight of his last nine games, and Bautista (.270/.400/.514) hit the biggest home run of the playoffs. Troy Tulowitzki leads the team with 11 RBI in the postseason. Edwin Encarnacion has a more than respectable .372 on-base percentage, though he only has two extra-base hits.
On paper, the Blue Jays should win Game 6. They have the better starting pitcher, and Toronto easily has the best lineup in MLB. But it’s hard to overlook the way Price has performed in seven postseason starts, even crumbling in Game 2 when he looked to be unhittable through six innings. The Blue Jays can certainly get to Ventura, leaving the possibility for a lot of runs to be scored.
Kansas City over Toronto, 7-5