TORONTO -- David Price is well aware of the perception that exists out there, that he doesn't rise to the occasion during the postseason. He wants that "monkey off [his] back" more than anything, but it didn't happen in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Price surrendered five runs over seven innings in a 5-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday afternoon to put the Blue Jays in an early deficit in the best-of-five series. He struggled to find the strike zone early, walked two, hit two more batters and eventually surrendered a pair of home runs, to Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor.
The outing was far from what the Blue Jays hoped for going into the game, and it continues a troubling career trend for Price in the postseason. He is 0-6 with a 5.23 ERA in six career postseason starts, with his lone postseason win coming as a reliever during the 2008 AL Championship Series. Four of those defeats have come against Texas.
"It's been about seven years," Price said of his last postseason victory. "I want that monkey off my back and I expect to have better results out there on the field. I didn't throw the way I am capable of today and I'll be ready to go whenever it's my turn again."
Price made Thursday's start on 11 days of rest after the Blue Jays made a controversial decision to cancel his last start of the year. Toronto instead opted to have Price throw a couple of innings in a simulated game at Tropicana Field last Friday.
It's impossible know for sure whether the extra rest had a negative effect on Price's outing, but there's no debating that the Cy Young candidate wasn't sharp early. He walked a pair of hitters in the first and seemed to be having a lot of difficulty keeping the ball down in the zone.
"I don't know if that had anything to do with the layoff," said manager John Gibbons. "The first inning they were probably a little bit revved up, too. He didn't give up many hits. The key ones were the two home runs, the two-run by Chirinos and then Odor getting him later, that was really the difference in the game. They had some key hits. Really one of those games he wasn't getting hit around, it was just a couple key hits at some key times that made the difference."
Price escaped the first without any runs and then appeared to turn a corner in the second when he struck out the side. Unfortunately for Toronto, that's where the good news ended. He allowed two runs in the third, two runs in the fifth and one more in the seventh.
"It didn't affect me," Price said of the extra rest. "I felt like in the first inning I was more so battling nerves [than rust]. I have nerves for my first Spring Training start, my first bullpen of the year; I care.
"If you're not out there and you're not nervous in those first couple of pitches or first couple of innings, I don't feel like you're human. I care a ton; I want go out there and pitch well for my teammates, pitch well for this country, and I didn't do that today."
Price had to deal with a countless number of questions about his postseason track record in the days and weeks leading up to this start. The critics will only get louder after his latest performance and Price knows that all too well.
He's coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career but it will certainly mean less if Price doesn't find a way to record that elusive postseason success.
"I know it's there, I know it's there," Price said when asked about his postseason reputation. "Hopefully it comes on my next start. If not, then my next one, or my next one, or my next one. I don't have an answer for you, to be honest. But I'm going to get better."