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(Reuters) - Toronto's potent offense set up an 8-4 win against the Texas Rangers in a do-or-die Game Four on Monday but the biggest surprise was the Blue Jays manager's decision to bring ace David Price out of the bullpen to pitch three innings.
It was Price's first appearance in relief since 2010 and his first in a post-season game since his rookie season in 2008, but he earned the win to ensure that his team will return to Toronto for the decisive Game Five on Wednesday.
"I told them I'd be ready for whatever situation they wanted me in," said Price, the 2012 Cy Young winner and a five-time All-Star. "That was the mindset I brought to the field -- just be ready at any point in the game, and that's what I did.
"It's the same game ... the dimensions don't change. I've just got to go out there and try and make pitches and do whatever I can to try help this team win.
"The offense obviously did a great job in putting up a ton of early runs and that kept the pressure on. I want to help this team win, I want to be out there on the mound."
Price took over for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with the Blue Jays leading 7-1 after Josh Donaldson, Chris Colabello and Kevin Pillar had blasted home runs in the first two innings to send Rangers starter Derek Holland out of the game.
Left-hander Price ended up throwing 50 pitches, working into the eighth inning, as he picked the victory despite allowing three runs.
"I looked at it this way," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked about his decision to use Price in relief. "I was hoping today to get five out of RA (Dickey), six if everything went well. We did have a nice little lead.
"And one thing I've learned over the years, sometimes the best way you win games is don't let the team get back into it. Especially this ... it's our first go-round with this kind of game but I know what kind of offense they have.
"And I told Price today, if we get you up, you're going in. It wasn't an easy decision, it was hard for me to do, but I thought that was the best way to win the game."
Gibbons confirmed that with Price having pitched three innings on Monday, right-hander Marcus Stroman would start for the Blue Jays on Wednesday with the best-of-five American League Division Series on the line.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury