BOSTON (AP) — David Price went home a winner in a postseason start for the first time in his career.
That, he insisted, is all he ever cared about.
"This is bigger than David Price," he said on Sunday night. "This isn't about me. This is about the Boston Red Sox."
Price was good enough, the Red Sox relievers were even better, and Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered a go-ahead, three-run double off the Green Monster to lead Boston to a 7-5 victory over the Houston Astros and tie the AL Championship Series at one game apiece.
Price fell one out short of qualifying for the win, which would have been his first in 11 postseason starts. But it was the first time his team had won a playoff game he started, snapping a record run of October futility.
"It's baby steps," said Price, who entered the night 0-9 in 10 career playoff starts. "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. And that's what I'm about."
Game 3 is Tuesday in Houston, followed by two more at Minute Maid Park and a chance for the defending World Series champions to clinch a second straight AL pennant at home. Marwin Gonzalez homered for the Astros, who had won five straight postseason games dating to Game 7 of the 2017 Series.
"We came here and won a game, and they played well tonight," Houston third baseman Alex Bregman said. "It's going to be a fun series, so we're looking forward to going back home."
Price was spotted a two-run lead in the first inning and then fell behind 4-2 before Bradley clanged one off the left-field wall that Gonzalez chased helplessly as it bounced back toward the infield.
Price left leading 5-4 with two on with two out in the fifth before Matt Barnes struck out Gonzalez to end the inning and then pitched a perfect sixth to earn the victory. Ryan Brasier pitched a scoreless inning and erstwhile starter Rick Porcello set the Astros down 1-2-3 in the eighth.
Closer Craig Kimbrel gave up Jose Altuve's RBI single with two outs in the ninth before Bregman launched a high fly to left that Andrew Benintendi caught a step in front of the Monster.
"I knew I missed it," Bregman said. "If I got it, it would have been on the street behind Fenway Park."
Gerrit Cole, who was so dominant in his Division Series start against Cleveland, gave up a double to Mookie Betts — the first batter of the game — as Boston sent eight batters to the plate in the first and scored twice.
The AL West champs tied it in the second on George Springer's two-run double down the right-field line. And when Gonzalez cleared the Monster — and the seats above them — with a two-run homer in the third, it looked like Price was headed for another loss (he has won two postseason games in relief.)
But Boston, which won the AL East and a franchise-record 108 games, came back in the bottom half, starting with Xander Bogaerts' one-out single and then a double by Steve Pearce that sent Gonzalez crashing back-first into the metal scoreboard on the left-field wall. He fell to the warning track, but after the training staff and manger AJ Hinch went out to check on him he stayed in the game.
"The ball, the wall, he's back-pedaling. He's got to make a decision on whether or not to concede the wall and try to play it off the wall or try to make a catch," Hinch said. "It's a well-placed hit."
Cole walked Devers on four pitches to load the bases and struck out Ian Kinsler on three before Bradley lofted one down the left-field line and off the Monster. As the ball bounced back toward the infield, it hopped on the padding along the side wall, just out of Gonzalez's reach.
"Not really catching a break with it rolling on this awkward piece of padding all the way down was unfortunate," Cole said. "But you put yourself in that position."
Betts scored an insurance run in the seventh, walking to lead off the inning and coming around to make it 6-4 on a wild pitch and a pair of passed balls. He gave Boston a 7-4 lead with an RBI double in the eighth.
PRICE IS RIGHT
In all, Price was charged with four runs on five hits and four walks, striking out four in 4 2/3 innings
Price's teams had lost all 10 of his previous postseason starts, the longest such losing streak in baseball history. He allowed three runs and got just five outs in Game 2 against the Yankees, the only Red Sox loss in the series.
As Price left the field on this night, the crowd rose to applaud the pitcher they booed off the mound in the Division Series, and he tapped the brim of his cap.
"It's definitely appreciated," Price said. "It wasn't the line I dreamed up to have tonight. But our offense, our defense, everybody rallied together."
The Red Sox said Game 1 starter Chris Sale was hospitalized with a stomach illness but Cora said he was still hoping the he would join the team in Houston.
"He was feeling bad and he's at the hospital," Cora said. "From what I know, it's nothing serious. But obviously whenever you have to go to the hospital you've got to be 'worried.'"
Cora said it did not affect his performance in the series opener, which Houston won 7-2 .
It was Houston's 14th straight postseason game with a homer, breaking the major league record that had been held by the Astros from 2001-04.
Dallas Keuchel, who was 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in the regular season, will start Game 3 for Houston. He allowed two runs in five innings in the Game 3 clincher against Cleveland.
With Porcello pitching in relief on Sunday, the Red Sox are expected to start Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday. He was 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA in the regular season and allowed one run in five innings for the win against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS — his first career postseason appearance.