There are games this team has to rely on winning. David Price starts against the Rays are generally going to be among them. David Price starts against the Rays when the Red Sox score five runs in the bottom of the first? Absolutely.
Which is what makes Price's performance so completely unacceptable.
Everything was just going swimmingly. Dustin Pedroia had homered! A botched hit-and-run had turned into a double seal and a run when Curt Casali threw the ball into center field. It was 5-1 Red Sox, and if David Price had allowed a run in the first, he'd finished the frame by striking out Desmond Jennings and Steven Souza and picked up another pair of strikeouts in the second. The only real problem was that the umpires took about half an hour to figure out if Steve Pearce had turned a double play to end the second inning, or just gotten a David Ortiz ground out (it was the latter).
In the third, Price would allow a solo shot to Evan Longoria. All right. Longoria is pretty good. We've still got this, right?
Nope. Enter the fourth, exit the lead. And then some. Price was missing routinely high and away to righties, and walked Kevin Kiermaier on four pitches with one out in the frame. Up came number nine man Curt Casali, and while Price looked decent to start the at bat, he left a 1-2 fastball waist-high and over the plate, and Casali blasted it into the Monster seats. From there, Price fell completely apart. A swinging bunt back to the mound went for a single, and Price hit Guyer with a pitch to put two men on for Evan Longoria, who once again proved to own his former teammate with a double to left, putting Tampa Bay ahead. And it still wasn't over, with Desmond Jennings plating Longoria and, with Price finally out of the game, Steven Souza singling off Matt Barnes to bring Jennings home. By the time it was finally over, the Sox trailed 8-5.
The Red Sox lineup, meanwhile, would go cold for a good few innings, with Odorizzi managing to keep the Sox from adding to their score through four. Enny Romero would get the Rays within an out of the seventh, but was replaced with Danny Farquhar with one away and Christian Vazquez on first. Farquhar would not prove as effective, immediately allowing a two-run shot to Mookie Betts to get the Red Sox within one, and would have even given up the tying run had Kiermaier not come in to make a big catch on a fast-sinking line drive from Xander Bogaerts.
That would keep the Rays ahead for only one extra inning, though. In the bottom of the seventh, David Ortiz doubled to the wall, and scored when Travis Shaw shot a line drive past Kiermaier and to the wall. Still, the Sox would fail to take the lead despite Brock Holt following up with an infield single and Christian Vazquez walking, as both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts struck out with the bases loaded to extinguish the imminent threat of a go-ahead run.
That squander would prove costly indeed. Perhaps because the bullpen was depleted, or perhaps because he feared what extra innings might lead to if he gave up his long-relief arm now, John Farrell stuck with Triple-A journeyman starter William Cuevas for the eighth. He promptly gave up the go-ahead run, leaving the Red Sox trailing once more.
The Sox would threaten again in the bottom of the eighth, putting two men on with one out ahead of Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw. But Ramirez' line drive went straight to Forsythe at second, and Shaw couldn't replicate his magic from the previous frame, flying out to the track in left field. With the Sox unable to catch up, Farrell elected to stick with the likes of Cuevas and Noe Ramirez, which in turn led to another three runs for Tampa Bay, putting the game out of reach. About the only thing the Sox can lay claim to is forcing the Rays to go to their closer by putting a couple guys on in the ninth.
This series has been bookended by utterly depressing defeats. The first a complete waste of a brilliant bullpen performance in relief of Joe Kelly by an offense that couldn't even score a run when they had the bases loaded with zero outs. And now, while there was a whole hell of a lot that happened between the fourth and the end of the game, David Price surrendering his second lead of at least three runs in April is the real story of this game. This is not what the Red Sox got him for, and at 7-8, Price's failures are the difference between a strong start that would have the team just out of first place, and the current reality where they're just treading water above the cellar.
Price has had his struggles in April before. This is not unheard of. But regression to the mean doesn't imply that Price will now pitch better than his career standards to make up for it. The damage is done, and the failures of the ace are felt sharply indeed right now.