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David Price is stepping up at the right time for the Red Sox

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David Price brought it all together at the right time for the Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

This Red Sox team is absurd. We all know this, but seriously it’s worth spending at least a couple minutes every day just thinking about this team’s run to this point in the year. They have a .708 winning percentage as of this writing. Over their last 30 days, they have a bonkers winning percentage of .792. Staying at that pace would easily give them the all-time regular season win record, as they only need to win 73.8 percent of their remaining games to reach the 116 mark. I don’t think they are going to at least tie the record, but it is in the realm of possibility. Whether or not you think they will (51 percent of very biased NESN viewers earlier this week believed they would), that it is indeed a real possibility is bananas in and of itself.

It goes without saying that a team does not perform this well with just one player, or one portion of their roster for that matter, playing well. It’s been a total group effort, with different groups stepping up at different points of the year and all three phases of the roster combining for dynamite performances for many chunks of the season. The start of the second half was highlighted by great starting pitching, and while some of that has fallen off a bit over the last week or two, one guy is continuing to look as well as he has in years. That would be David Price, in case you missed the headline and that big ol’ picture at the top of the page, and he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The Red Sox don’t find themselves in too much trouble in the standings at the moment, but Price getting this momentum when he has is exactly the right time for the Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles - Game One Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

I think we all know that Price’s career in Boston has been....interesting, to put it lately. Any free agent that comes in with the kind of large contract signed by Price is going to have a target on his back, and the media hasn’t missed. That isn’t to say it’s all been unfair — Price has had some legitimately awful stretches with the club and also could be more diplomatic in media sessions — but, well, it’s been a journey. One could make the argument rock bottom was reached in July when Price was absolutely demolished by the Yankees for eight runs in 3 13 innings. It was awful, and all of the (again, somewhat valid) criticism was out.

Since then, Price has taken initiative to change and the numbers have followed. Including his next start against the Royals, which was certainly better than the Yankees outing but really not all that great in its own right, Price has a 2.39 ERA over 37 23 innings in six starts with 42 strikeouts and only six walks while holding opponents to a .232/.286/.352 line. That’s....well, it’ll certainly do! That run doesn’t include exclusively great competition of course, but there is a two-start stretch against the Yankees and Phillies in which he allowed just three runs over 14 innings of work.

The Red Sox have been rolling all year, and other than a stretch here and there when the Yankees have gotten some momentum on their side, Boston has had control of their own playoff destiny since the second day of the season. Still, this stretch has been huge for Price and the Red Sox for a couple reasons. For one thing, it came at the right time for this rotation. Eduardo Rodriguez went down with a long-term injury in the middle of July (right after this run by Price started), and Chris Sale was placed on the disabled list for a short run not too long after. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello has been remarkably inconsistent and Drew Pomeranz pitched his way out of the rotation. Nathan Eovaldi has been mostly terrific since coming over, but showed his last time out that he’s not actually the best pitcher of all time. The rotation has never been a reason to panic, but there’s been some inconsistency of late, and Price has stepped in to be the steady presence we so desperately crave.

The other big part of all of this is what it’s presumably done to his confidence. Price just wasn’t the same pitcher for most of this year (and other parts of his Red Sox career) as he was in his prime, and it seems he’s finally found a way to work around that. This is something he discussed in-depth with Alex Speier not too long ago, and it’s something I highly encourage you to read. In it, he discusses how he realizes he’s not the same pitcher he once was, as he relied almost exclusively on a power fastball combination early in his prime. Since then, his velocity has fallen to the low-90s, and he’s struggled to adjust to this. Lately, he’s finally getting to his secondaries more, and it’s come with great results.

Like I said, all of this is discussed with Speier, but it’s worth going into the numbers at least a little bit. There is a clear change in approach between his run through the disastrous Yankees start at the beginning of July and everything that has happened since. In the first portion of the season, Price threw his fastballs about half of the time, but he’s dropped that rate down to about 40 percent since the end of that Yankees start. Instead, he’s mixing in his cuter and changeup significantly more often. Perhaps more importantly, he’s not afraid to throw those pitches in any count, too, making opponents noticeably more off-balance than they were early in the year.

After Price blew up against the Yankees in early July, people were justifiably starting to wonder if he’d be in the bullpen during the postseason. His season numbers weren’t even that great at the time, his track record against the Yankees was becoming more and more impossible to ignore, and his playoff struggles are well-documented. Things have changed since then. I’m sure there are still people who want him in the bullpen, but it’s a lot harder to justify it right now. With a new approach and a realization he’s not the pitcher he once was, Price has stepped up as the clear number two in this rotation, and as much as another dominant force in the bullpen would help, having your second-best pitcher in the rotation makes much more sense than putting him in the bullpen, even in October.