It was hard to know what to expect from David Price this year. On the one hand, the results last year were disappointing and he gave up a whole lot of hard contact. As a pitcher in his 30’s, it was hard to expect improvement at this stage of his career. On the other hand, he posted excellent peripherals and most signs pointed towards positive regression in the southpaw’s favor this season as long as he pitched the same way in 2017 as he did in 2016. On the third hand, because you are apparently a mutant, he was hurt in spring and missed most of his preparation, so all normal avenues for forming expectations could pretty much be thrown out the window.
In his first start of the season in Chicago on Memorial Day, Price looked solid enough. There were some issues and he certainly looked rusty, but the stuff looked good and there was reason to be optimistic. He made good on that optimism in Baltimore on Saturday night. Price was outstanding against the Orioles in his second start of the season, showing off the stuff, command and efficiency you’d expect from someone of his stature.
The lefty came out and allowed a single to the first batter he faced, and while it wasn’t on super hard contact it was a little frightening for how the rest of the day might go, particularly with how well the Orioles always seem to hit against Boston pitching. Instead, Price came right back and shut down the next nine Orioles batters he faced with three of those outs coming on strikeouts.
He finally allowed another base runner to lead off the fourth with a leadoff walk, but Adam Jones was eliminated in a double play to end the inning and Price still managed to face the minimum for the third consecutive frame. He’d face four batters in the fifth, allowing one single, before completing yet another 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.
That brought us to the seventh with Price at only 73 pitches without having allowed a run. Things were looking way up for the former Cy Young winner, but they were about to take a turn for the worse. In the first at bat of this inning, Price tried to get Manny Machado with a fastball down and in. The pitch did not get down by enough and caught too much of the plate and the Orioles third baseman was able to send it a few rows deep into the left field seats to give Baltimore their first run of the game. Fortunately, Price didn’t spiral from there and got outs in the next three at bats to get out of the inning. He’d come back out for the eighth and get a strikeout to lead off the inning, but Christian Vazquez couldn’t catch the ball running inside on Jonathan Schoop and the Orioles second baseman reached on the passed ball. That would be the final batter for Price on the evening, and his night ended with just one run allowed in seven innings with seven strikeouts.
It was a highly encouraging start for Price, and it makes me feel a little better about this rotation with Rodriguez out and Porcello not looking quite like the Porcello from last year. There are going to be bad days from everyone in the group, but Price was a big reason the Red Sox were division favorites before the season. Him looking like this makes that result look more likely.
Meanwhile, the offense didn’t put up a big number against Dylan Bundy but they still had a somewhat successful day against the best starter in Baltimore’s rotation. The Red Sox were able to get one base runner in each of the first two innings — Xander Bogaerts doubled in the first and Vazquez singled in the second — but neither scored. However, they did work a bunch of deep counts and Bundy was over 40 pitches after just two frames.
He would be able to come back with a relatively quick third inning, but that was the only one of those for the Orioles starter in this one. Bundy came back out for the fourth with a 0-0 score and the middle of the Red Sox lineup was ready to do a little bit of damage. Bogaerts drew a leadoff walk, and after Mitch Moreland flew out to center field Hanley Ramirez was ready to re-emerge in the lineup. Bundy hung a curveball right over the heart of the plate and Hanley did not miss this one, hitting his first home run since May 20 and his second since May 2.
That dinger gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead, and that would be the score until Machado’s long ball. Boston’s offense went into a bit of a cold spell over the next few innings, but they still worked the counts well enough to knock Bundy out after just five innings. Getting into the bullpen was a big win, and in particular Vazquez stands out as someone who was working counts on Saturday, seeing 16 pitches in his two at bats against Bundy.
After doing mostly nothing against Richard Bleier in the sixth and seventh, the offense turned it on in the eighth against Ubaldo Jimenez, who was just recently put in the bullpen. Betts led off the inning with a double and moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt from Andrew Benintendi. I don’t know why Benintendi is hitting second if he can’t be trusted to swing the bat against Jimenez, but whatever, it worked. Betts would score on a ground ball from Bogaerts and the Red Sox had a 3-1 lead with just one out. After another out was put on the board, Ramirez came through with another big hit, this time an RBI double to extend the lead to three.
Joe Kelly came in after Price, and he immediately induced a double play ball to clear the bases and put two outs on the board. After that, he allowed two singles — one on a line drive and one on a well-placed ground ball — and all of a sudden Adam Jones was up representing the tying run. John Farrell decided he wasn’t playing around and brought Craig Kimbrel in for the last out in the eight. The closer does what he does, striking out Jones to end the inning. He’d come back out for the ninth and, while he allowed a run and his first two hits to righties, he still preserved the lead and gave the Red Sox the win.
With the victory, the Red Sox leapfrog right back into second place in the division and have a shot at salvaging a split in this series Sunday afternoon with Chris Sale on the mound.