The leadup to this game was all about David Price’s return to the mound, so obviously that’s where we’re going to start. Most fans were apprehensive about the expensive lefty taking the mound today after his lackluster results in his two rehab appearances. It’s true that those games were little more than a late spring training for Price, but it was still hard to know what to expect — or to have high expectations — for him after seeing Triple-A hitters hit him hard in two consecutive games.
As it turns out, Price was....fine in his 2017 major-league debut. There were good moments and there were bad moments but he got through five decent innings while staying around his 90-pitch limit.
The good was that his stuff looked sharp for much of this outing. The velocity was right where we wanted it to be, with the fastball sitting around 94-95 mph. More importantly, it stayed that speed in all five of his innings. According to reports, his velocity was falling to the low-90s as he threw more pitches in his rehab starts. On top of that, he threw some strong cutters while mixing in some good curves.
That good showed up a lot in the beginning of the game. Price started things off with a strikeout in his first at bat and got through the first with a clean 1-2-3 inning. He allowed a bloop single in the second, but that was all and the first two innings had everyone excited.
Things took a bit of a negative turn in the third, though. After getting a quick first out, Price issued his first walk of the game to Adam Engel, the White Sox’ number nine hitter. After Engel stole second on a pickoff play, Price allowed another walk to Tim Anderson. These are two hitters who pitchers certainly don’t want to walk — due to both speed and a lack of talent at the plate — and Price paid the....well, price. In the next at bat he’d throw a fastball that caught way too much of the plate and Melky Cabrera sent it flying into the left field seats. It was easily the worst pitch Price would throw all day.
He came back with a quick 1-2-3 fourth before getting into a little more trouble in his fifth and final inning. That one started with two batters being hit by pitches as Price started to lose his control a bit. Suddenly in a quick jam, Price induced a grounder to Anderson that resulted in one out at second and runners at the corners with one out. He’d then induce another grounder and this time Xander Bogaerts made a phenomenal snag on a diving play towards the hole. The shortstop made the sick stop and was still able to turn the double play to end the inning without allowing a run.
WOW. #RedSox pic.twitter.com/8p0nyH7phM— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) May 29, 2017
All in all, it was an extremely encouraging start for Price. The stuff was there all day and didn’t look to be suffering in the later innings. He got some help from his defense, but he did plenty of the work himself. The control problems weren’t great, of course, but for a guy still ramping up to get himself 100 percent, this was a big step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the offense gave Price a chance to win the game by staying one step ahead of the White Sox. Boston got started early in this one, with Mookie Betts leading off the game with a big double to left field. It was his first extra-base hit since May 19. Dustin Pedroia would move him over on a ground ball in the next at bat — and the play ended up costing Pedroia the rest of the game, at least — and Bogaerts drove home the run on a pop up that was placed in just the right place for a shallow sacrifice fly. Just like that, the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead.
That was all the offense would do for a couple innings and they entered the top half of the fourth trailing 3-1 after Cabrera’s home run off Price. Boston would not trail for too long. The rally started with a walk to Hanley Ramirez — his second in as many at bats — and after a deep flyout from Chris Young, Sam Travis drew a walk of his own to put two on with one out. From there, Christian Vazquez ripped an RBI double to get Boston to within one and Jackie Bradley tied the game with an RBI groundout. They had a chance at more but Deven Marrero struck out with Vazquez on third.
It was okay, though, as Betts came through with one of the weirder and more impressive home runs you’ll ever see to lead off the fifth. He took a middle-in fastball and crushed a line drive down the left field line that caught the top of the wall and allowed him to round the bases. It wasn’t a high, majestic blast, but it was hit as well as any other homer you’ll see. It was his first extra base hit since the first inning.
Perfect placement. #RedSox pic.twitter.com/QAHDRebngt— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) May 29, 2017
So, from this point on it was up to the bullpen. Joe Kelly did his part in the sixth, allowing one walk but getting through the inning without allowing a run. That brought Matt Barnes on for the seventh, and that did not go as smoothly. Things started with a triple to Yolmer Sanchez that was immediately followed by an RBI double from Kevan Smith. Just like that, things were tied at four and Price lost his chance at a win. Engel followed that up with three horrible bunt attempts to strike out, which the Red Sox surely appreciated.
After getting a groundout to keep the runner on second, the White Sox would take the lead in bizarre fashion. It was Cabrera coming through again, except this time it was a weak bloop into shallow center field. Josh Rutledge -- who came in to play second for Pedroia earlier — picked up the ball on the grass and made a strong throw home to get Smith. It wasn’t a perfect throw as it did take a bounce, but Vazquez should have been able to handle it to end the inning. Instead, he misjudged the hop, the ball got by him, Smith scored to give his team the 5-4 lead and Cabrera was at second base. Barnes would end the inning by striking out Jose Abreu, but the damage was done. It was a bad day for Barnes, to say the least.
The White Sox looked to hold that lead with Tommy Kahnle, a reliever in the midst of a breakout season. The Red Sox made some solid contact against the righty with Andrew Benintendi sending one to the warning track and Mitch Moreland hitting one the right distance just a bit foul. Unfortunately, none of that translated to results, as they went down 1-2-3.
After Blaine Boyer threw a surprising 1-2-3 eighth that included two strikeouts, the offense had one last chance against the typically great David Robertson in the ninth.
Blame can go all around for this one. The offense should have been able to score more than four runs against a weak set (at least, prior to the last two innings) of White Sox pitchers. Matt Barnes had a terrible outing, even if the last run shouldn’t have scored. Speaking of which, Vazquez needs to make that play. In the end, it’s a bad loss that they’ll try to forget tomorrow. Speaking of which, at least Tuesday is Sale Day.