The Red Sox came into the second game of this doubleheader looking for some offense. They got enough of it in this one, but it was the pitching that really won this game for them. David Price was dynamic on Sunday night, and if he can pitch close to that for the rest of the year the Red Sox are going to scare a lot of teams.
While it was certainly nice to see a little life from the Red Sox offense on Sunday (which we’ll get to in just a minute), it was Price whose performance we should be talking the most about after this game. The lefty obviously hasn’t quite been the pitcher we’d hoped for when he signed two winters ago, although he has been better than many would give him credit for. He’s been trending in the right direction of late, and in the second half of Sunday’s doubleheader Price put together what was certainly his best performance of the season and arguably his best since joining the Red Sox.
The southpaw was phenomenal from the very start of the contest and didn’t let up throughout his start. He did give up a hit to leadoff the game, but it came on a little bloop from Jacoby Ellsbury. After that, he struck out both Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, making it clear he meant business in this game.
He didn’t take his foot off the gas from there. Through the first four innings, he allowed exactly four balls to reach the outfield. One of those was the bloop single from Ellsbury. Two others were weak, shallow fly balls that could have easily been caught by an infielder. The Yankees wouldn’t really get to Price until the fifth when Garrett Cooper smoked a double out to left field for his first major-league hit. He’d come through with two big outs after that to strand the rookie at second.
In the seventh, Price started to look a little more shaky. Granted, he certainly didn’t look bad, but he was missing his spots a little more often than before and the Yankees looked a bit more confident against his fastball. He got out of the frame without allowing a run, but with the heart of the order coming up and Price up around 100 pitches, it seemed like a good time for his night to be over. Instead, John Farrell sent him back out and after a quick first out he allowed a bloop single to Sanchez. That brought Judge to the plate with a runner on and a tiring Price on the hill. Judge got a hold of one and hit it to the deepest part of the ballpark, but thankfully Jackie Bradley is an alien who came to this planet just to show us how defense is supposed to be played.
Another angle of JBJ robbing Aaron Judge pic.twitter.com/TPWho47qBV— Sox Lunch (@Soxlunch) July 17, 2017
Price would strike out Holliday after that to finish off his outstanding night.
As has always been the case for Price, the key for his performance in this game was his fastball command. When he’s at his best, we see him throwing his fastball with a little bit of movement in 95-96 mph range. More importantly, we see him throwing those pitches exactly where he wants on the edges of the zone. That is what he did for the vast majority of this game, and it worked. Specifically, it worked against the middle of the order as Sanchez and Judge went a combined 1-8 against Price and Matt Holliday followed them up with just a single in four at bats. The Red Sox need a big second half from Price, and based on this start combined with the ones that preceded it, things are looking good on that front.
Meanwhile, the offense didn’t quite have the huge breakout game we were hoping for, but they did enough. It was another frustrating night at first, with the lineup unable to get anything going against Masahiro Tanaka. In fact, the Yankees starter got a clean first inning for the first time in 14 starts. They’d go down in order in the second, too.
Finally, in the third inning, after 24 consecutive frames without a run, they broke through. The rally started with a single from Christian Vazquez. A couple batters later, Mookie Betts would come up with two outs and finally came through with the kind of big swing we expect from him. Tanaka hung a slider and Betts smoked it into the Monster Seats to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
They’d get another rally going in the fifth, with Bradley leading things off with a double. He’d eventually make it over to third, but the Red Sox couldn’t score him. It didn’t end up costing them, but at the time it seemed possible that it could. The Red Sox would tack on an insurance run in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia came through with an RBI single to give Boston a 3-0 lead.
So, that 3-0 lead would remain intact heading into the ninth as Farrell called upon Craig Kimbrel to shut the door. The Red Sox closer did give up a double to Didi Gregorius and walked Brett Gardner, but that was all he’d allow as he finished off the game and helped hand New York their first shutout of the season.
The Red Sox take the last game in what was a wild weekend at Fenway, and in the end there is no change in the standings in relation to the Red Sox and Yankees. There are still things to be worked on, but for now we can celebrate a dominant performance from their starter and incredible defense from their outfield.