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Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 2: A much-needed solid day for David Price

And a really strong day for the bullpen.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox got the bounce-back they were looking for on Saturday in Toronto as they evened up this series at one in a mostly good game for the team. David Price took the mound and while he wasn’t utterly dominant like he was in his first couple of starts he was really solid and did the job. They’ll need him to make some strides from here, but after what’s been a rough few weeks they got momentum heading in the right direction. Perhaps even more encouraging was the performance of the bullpen, who came out for 3 23 innings and didn’t allow a run or even much of a threat. It’s been a struggling unit of late, so they needed this kind of clean game. There are still problems with the offense, but the stars are still hiding the issues more often than not. All in all, a good day for the good guys.

This certainly wasn’t a perfect outing from Price, but I don’t think anyone was expecting peak Price in this outing. Coming off a few rough outings in a row before missing his last start due to carpal tunnel in his throwing hand, the lefty was a complete wildcard heading into this game. As it turns out, his stuff was mostly there, though he leaned heavily on his fastballs and cutter all game, rarely going to the curveball. Still, the cutter had good movement and the fastballs had strong velocity and for the most part it worked out. Price’s command did turn off and on as the game went along, and it was something of a bend-but-don’t break outing at times, but given how poorly things have gone for him lately this was a step in the right direction.

The first few innings were Price at his best as he really didn’t get into too many stressful situations. The lefty issued a walk in the first, but that was all. He then came out in the second and struck out the side — unsurprisingly his most impressive inning of the day — before allowing a pair of singles in the third. He was able to work around those, though it came with a bit of luck as a line drive was smoked right at Xander Bogaerts, who was able to double up the runner at second to end the inning.

From here, things started to get a little bit shakier for Price in the second half of his Saturday afternoon start. This is the point when the command started to disappear more often, and while he never got shelled or anything like that he was missing his spots by some jarring margins at times. In the fourth his first out was another smoked line out, this time to left field, and he followed that up with a couple of walks sandwiching a fielder’s choice. With two on and two out, he caught just a bit too much of the plate against Anthony Alford, who smacked a single into center field to give Toronto their first run of the game. He was able to get out of the jam by striking out Friday’s hero Luke Maile.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth wasn’t quite as bad, but he did allow one hard-hit ball that resulted in a wall-ball double for Teoscar Hernandez. After working out of that, he headed back out there for the sixth inning. Things did not start well here when he left a two-strike fastball over the plate on the inner half, up in the zone to Justin Smoak. The Blue Jays first baseman hasn’t shown as much power in 2017 as he did in 2018, but he showed some on this pitch as he smashed it out to left field for a solo home run. Price would record one more out before finishing his night. All told, Price lasted 5 13 innings, allowing the two runs on five hits, three walks and six strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the offense was having a very similar night to the one they had on Friday, and that is not a great thing. The did get going a bit early, but when it seemed as if they had the starter on the rope, said starter (in this case Marco Estrada) settled right in and shut down the Red Sox offense for the middle of the game.

This time around, Boston did take a little bit longer to get going than they did on Friday. They had just one single in each of the first two innings and never really had a real threat. In the third, that changed. Mookie Betts started a rally with a one-out double, and he was immediately knocked in on an Andrew Benintendi single. That brought up Hanley Ramirez, and he continued the little power surge he’s been on in recent days. Estrada threw him a high-80s fastball middle-in, and the slugger was all over it. The ball ended up over the left field wall, giving the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.

That was all the offense would do for a few innings against the Blue Jays starter. In fact, Estrada walked the next batter after the home run, then after that he went out and retired the next nine Red Sox he would face. That slump was finally broken in the top half of the sixth with the score now 3-1 when Bogaerts ripped a double into left-center field. Rafael Devers followed that up with a base hit, and that extended the lead to 4-2. It seemed as if the Red Sox would have another chance in the seventh when Christian Vazquez and Betts kicked things off with back-to-back singles, but then they inexplicably attempted a double steal that predictably ended with Vazquez being cut down at third base. That started a downward spiral that ended with a scoreless inning.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

So, with the Red Sox up two after Price left the game, it was up to a struggling bullpen to come through and protect this lead. Carson Smith got the first call, and he was able to get the final two outs in the sixth. Hector Velazquez, pitching for his first time in a week, had the seventh. The righty did allow a leadoff single, but he quickly erased that with a double play before ending the inning on a groundout thanks to some help from Ramirez. The eighth belonged to Joe Kelly, and he also allowed a single but it didn’t matter because he struck out the other three batters he faced.

The Red Sox were able to add another insurance run in the top half of the ninth, and it was the top of the lineup again. Betts hit another double on another liner into left field, and once again Benintendi knocked him in on a base hit to put the Red Sox up three.

That brought Craig Kimbrel in for the save, and he didn’t show any signs of fatigue at all despite throwing two in a row in New York and warming up thrice on Friday. The closer got a 1-2-3 ninth including a pair of strikeouts to seal the victory.

The Red Sox kept pace with the Yankees on Saturday and will look to take this series in Toronto on Sunday afternoon. Boston will send Drew Pomeranz to the mound to take on Joe Biagini. First pitch is at 1:07 PM ET.