HOUSTON — David Price put his postseason woes behind him, pitching the Boston Red Sox back into another World Series with a 4-1 victory over the defending champion Houston Astros on Thursday night.
Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer as the Red Sox stunned Justin Verlander and the Astros in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series to win the best-of-seven set 4-1, a perfect 43rd birthday present for rookie manager Alex Cora. After dropping the opener at home, Boston took four straight — including three in a row at Minute Maid Park to improve to 5-0 on the road in these playoffs.
Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and the 108-win Red Sox will try to bring Boston its fourth crown in 15 years when they open the World Series on Tuesday night at Fenway Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers or Milwaukee Brewers. The Red Sox were last in the World Series when they won it all in 2013.
“We got four more wins. That was very, very special, absolutely. But we want more,” Price said.
Los Angeles has a 3-2 lead in the NLCS going into Game 6 on Friday night at Miller Park.
Left fielder Andrew Benintendi caught a long fly for the last out — not nearly as dramatic as his game-saving diving grab the previous night. Even so, it set off an enthusiastic celebration for the Red Sox, who gathered to pose for pictures in the middle of the diamond.
Despite leading the majors in wins during the regular season, the Red Sox were underdogs against a Houston team that defeated the Dodgers in last year’s World Series and romped past Cleveland in the Division Series this month.
But stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and the Astros hobbled to the finish in a humbling defeat. Still, no team has repeated as World Series champs since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.
Pitching on only three days’ rest after Boston ace Chris Sale was ruled out while recovering from a stomach illness, Price struck out nine in six shutout innings of three-hit ball. The left-hander, who has had a rough time in Boston since signing a $217 million contract before the 2016 season, entered 0-9 with a 6.16 ERA in 11 career postseason starts.
“It felt good. Honestly, it really started last night in the bullpen. Threw quite a few pitches to come in for the next hitter, found something out while doing that and kind of just carried that over to today,” Price said.
Price tipped his cap to a few hundred Red Sox fans assembled behind the Boston dugout while they cheered as he walked off the field following postgame interviews.
Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez hit an early homer off Verlander, and Price made the lead stand up into the late innings. Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his third save of the series.
Martinez reached the World Series by beating the team that released him during spring training four years ago.
“It’s a little sweeter, obviously,” he said. “But it’s one of the things where I’m past it, and I’m here because of my struggles and because of my pain that I went through there,” he said.
“To win 108 games in a season, you’ve got to have a complete team and I think that was on display this series. The whole playoffs, actually,” he said.