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Red Sox 1, Rays 0: David Price did the damn thing

David Price was incredible, Xander Bogaerts stayed hot and Craig Kimbrel is back.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

David Price is back, you guys. The Red Sox lefty has been talking all spring about how he was ready for the year and ready to prove to Boston what kind of pitcher he really is. He is perhaps the biggest X-Factor on this team, as him performing to his potential gives the rotation a ridiculous one-two punch atop the unit. Price was absurdly good in his first start of the year, showing off impeccable command to go with otherworldly efficiency. The offense didn’t match up with the pitching performance, giving up some shades of 2017 with their performance today. Though, to be fair, Blake Snell was phenomenal for Tampa Bay. One guy who continued to hit for the Red Sox was Xander Bogaerts, and that was enough for today at least. Oh, and in case you were worried Craig Kimbrel is still a robot built to destroy opposing hitters.

Price was flat-out sick, which was easily the takeaway from this game. The Red Sox lefty is looking to prove he can be the 1A to Chris Sale’s 1-status in the rotation, and on Friday Price picked up right where Sale left off. Going up against his former team, Price had all three of his pitches working and he was painting the corner of the zone all day long with each of his offerings. This is Price at his best, not really showing off a big breaking ball but painting the corners with his two-seam and just destroying opponents with that late-breaking cutter. The Rays saw first-hand in this one how demoralizing that kind of mix can be.

There really weren’t many instances early on in which Price even had to break a sweat. In fact, the southpaw retired the first ten batters he faced in a run that included two strikeouts and just one ball leaving the infield. The first hit of the game came from Kevin Kiermaier, and even this wasn’t very impressive. The Rays outfielder hit a little chopper up the middle that Xander Bogaerts was able to get to but the Red Sox shortstop never had a chance to get the speedy runner. Price would allow another batter to reach on a more legitimate single later in the inning, but got out of the mild trouble without allowing a run.

From there, it was just more cruising as that fourth inning was the most the Red Sox starter had to work in this game. He tossed an easy fifth that did include a single but was quickly followed by a double play and then came back out for the sixth with a 1-2-3 frame that included a pair of strikeouts. The seventh wasn’t much more difficult. It did include a single from Wilson Ramos, but that was it.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

That would be it for the lefty, and it was as phenomenal of a first impression as we could have gotten in this young season. As was the case with Sale on Thursday, the Red Sox are easing Price into the season. It was questionable to lift him after just 72 pitches with the bottom of Tampa’s order coming up, but Alex Cora has a plan and he’s sticking to it. I can respect that kind of managing, though I very much did not like taking Price out at this point in the game, particularly after Thursday’s disaster.

Unfortunately, Snell was able to match Price for pretty much his entire outing. In fact, the two starters’ nights were close mirrors of each other. While Price was perfect through his first ten batters, Snell got through eleven before allowing his first base runner. The Rays starter had markedly improved command from earlier in his career and the stuff was straight-up filthy for most of this outing. The Red Sox did manage a couple of baserunners in the top of the fourth on a Hanley Ramirez single and a J.D. Martinez walk, but they’d be left stranded.

Snell came back after that and got through an easy fifth before getting into a little more trouble in the sixth. After a quick first out, Mookie Betts drew a walk and then during Ramirez’ two-out at bat, Betts applied some pressure with his mere presence on the bases. Ramirez worked through a tough at bat and eventually singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. It was a chance for J.D. Martinez to come through in a big spot for his new team in a scoreless game. Kevin Cash wanted no part of Martinez against a lefty, despite Snell having thrown only 84 pitches and looking great throughout the start, and he called upon Chaz Roe. The Rays right-handed reliever got the job done, though, getting Martinez to strike out in a long, frustrating at bat with an inconsistent strike zone (for what it’s worth I thought the ultimate strike three call was correct) to end the rally.

The sixth went better for the Red Sox, and as was the case for their scoring chances on Opening Day it started with Bogaerts. The shortstop had another big swing and smashed a double into the left field corner to start the inning, giving him three doubles on the year already. Downright Swihartian, if you ask me. The Red Sox didn’t wait around to capitalize on the chance this time, with Rafael Devers coming through with an RBI single despite the Rays going back to the bullpen to bring in their lefty specialist. Just like that, the Red Sox were on the board and had a 1-0 lead. Eduardo Nuñez followed that up with an infield single — one in which he felt he had to slide in to avoid a tag and that awkward slide led to a visit from the trainer, but he stayed in the game — but the Red Sox couldn’t capitalize from there. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a big part in killing this momentum, grounding into a double play to continue a rough start to his 2018 that includes a rough spring training.

So, it was up to the Red Sox bullpen to come through in a big spot and avenge their performance on Opening Day. It was Matt Barnes who got the eighth inning this time around after he looked very good in his first outing of the year on Thursday. Things weren’t completely stress-free for Barnes this time around, but he did the job. The Rays got one baserunner when Denard Span — Thursday’s hero — drew a one-out walk, but that was it. Joey Wendle looked like he may have had a big swing when he smoked a line drive in the next at bat, but fortunately for the Red Sox it was hit directly at Devers.

The Red Sox looked like they’d be able to get some insurance in the ninth when Bogaerts hit yet another double — his fourth of the year! — but that was squandered by a Devers ground out and Nuñez strikeout. The latter involved a ball that got by the catcher and to the backstop, but Nuñez was just barely thrown out on a play that was challenged but upheld. Had the call been reversed — and it looked questionable, at least, despite the review taking approximately one half of one second — Bogaerts would have scored and given Boston a 2-0 lead.

Instead, the one-run lead held up and the Red Sox called upon Craig Kimbrel to save the lead in his first opportunity of 2018. Things got off to a great start with Kiermaier going down by way of the K (miss you, Don) to start the ninth. The good times kept rolling when Carlos Gomez came up as he also succumbed to a Kimbrel fastball. C.J. Cron couldn’t put the ball in play, either, and with three straight strikeouts this one was over. Cora’s first win is in the books, and the Red Sox will not go 0-162 in 2018.

The Red Sox will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday back in Tampa with Rick Porcello taking on......well, the Rays bullpen. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET. Be there or be square. Or, you know, something else.