HOUSTON — It was 10 years ago Friday that rookie David Price, a 23-year-old seed-thrower, came out of the bullpen to pitch 1 1/3 innings and earn the save as the Tampa Bay Rays held off the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

It was mostly downhill for Price in his postseason life thereafter, even as he emerged as one of the best left-handed starters of his generation.

“I don’t really have an answer,” Price said before Game 2 of this ALCS in analyzing his many October failures. “I feel like I’ve given some answers the past eight years. But I really don’t have an answer for it.”

On short rest Thursday night in Game 5, Price came up with all the right answers, utilizing a dazzling change-up over six brilliant scoreless innings to help send the Red Sox to the World Series with a 4-1 victory that dethroned the defending world champion Astros at mostly quiet Minute Maid Park.

Price, a much-discussed 0-9 with a 6.03 ERA in 11 postseason starts coming in, dominated the Astros over six innings, allowing three hits and no walks and striking out nine, a playoff best for him.

He outdueled Justin Verlander, who entered 13-6 with a 3.08 ERA in the playoffs, including 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA in five previous elimination games.

The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner was thrilled he won’t be asked again about that zero in the win column.

“That’s awesome,” Price said after the game. “I don’t have to prepare myself for it in spring training on Feb. 20 or September when I’ve still got five regular-season starts. I don’t have to answer that question anymore. And man, it feels good.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora felt equally good after watching Price outpitch Verlander for the victory.

“There was a lot of noise,” Cora said. “I heard somebody today on TV just blasting David, blasting him, calling him the worst pitcher in the postseason. Yeah, the numbers are there, I know, but he was saying this — he didn’t hesitate. It was a bad matchup, one of the greatest against the worst and all that.”

“I don’t listen too much to what’s going on outside, but that one got me,” he added. “But you know what? I’m happy that David showed up today. And tomorrow we can turn the page and move on to the World Series with David Price.”

Price received a standing ovation leaving the mound at Fenway in Game 2 after he allowed four runs, five hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings of Boston’s 7-5 victory. Initially, he wasn’t even supposed to start Game 5; that nod was supposed to go to Chris Sale. But Sale, who started Game 1 Saturday, was hospitalized with a stomach illness Sunday and physically wasn’t quite up to making the start.

“He’s up to the challenge,” Cora said of Price before the game.

He was, which was evident fairly early.

In the first, Price allowed only a two-out single to designated hitter Jose Altuve, whose sore right knee would have kept him on the bench if this had been the regular season, according to manager A.J. Hinch.

In the third, Martinez got the call on a borderline 0-and-2 slider that Verlander thought he had for strike three. Then the slugger hammered a hanging curveball to left, his second postseason homer making it 1-0. It was the first run allowed by Verlander in an elimination game since Game 5 of the 2011 ALCS, when he was with the Tigers.

Price responded with perfect 12-pitch bottom half that included a strikeout of Alex Bregman.

After Gurriel’s leadoff single in the second, Price retired eight straight, with Gurriel snapping that streak with a two-out double, on a 2-and-2 cutter, in the fourth. Price left him there, striking out Gonzalez swinging at a changeup for the third out.

– Associated Press contributed to this story.

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