David Price is good at this whole pitching thing, everyone. He’s obviously had his shaky moments with the Red Sox, but the lefty is on some kind of run right now and that continued into Saturday. It seems he is taking to heart that he simply isn’t the pitcher he once was, and he’s more comfortable than ever going to his secondaries rather than just trying to pound his fastball around the edges of the zone. The results have been fantastic, and he just gave up one big home run in this game but otherwise shutting down his former team. That performance was more than enough to win thanks to a huge early-game surge from the Red Sox offense. Ho hum, another series win has been clinched.
There’s never going to be anything to make us feel better about Chris Sale’s injury besides him recovering to full health. By all accounts this isn’t something to be too worried about, but Sale is at the very least in the conversation for being the best pitcher in baseball and there is no replacing him. That being said, having David Price throwing like he is right now makes things a tad easier to swallow. The veteran southpaw has been lights out of late, and that continued in a big way on Saturday against his former team. Price once again did a nice job of mixing in all of his pitches, and while there were a few tough stretches here and there for the most part he was fantastic.
In the top half of the first, it actually seemed like the Rays might be able to get to Price, particularly after they got off to a hot start the night before. The game started with a Xander Bogaerts error — that should have been called on Mitch Moreland, who couldn’t handle a relatively easy bounced throw — followed by a single to put two on with nobody out. Price got out of the jam from there, though, getting a pop out, a strikeout and a ground out.
After that tough first inning that saw his pitch count get around 20, Price settled into a major groove for a few innings. After the single in that first inning, in fact, the lefty retired ten in a row to take him into the top of the fourth with one out. There, he got into a bit more trouble. Tommy Pham drew a walk and C.J. Cron singled to once again put two on, this time with one out. Fortunately, Pham was caught sleeping at second base as he was deked on a fly ball to left field and subsequently doubled up to end the inning. Similarly, Price would strand two in the fifth to maintain his shutout.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense got off to a scorching start against Tyler Glasnow, who appeared to not be long for the game in the bottom half of the first. After Price kept the Rays off the board in the top half, Boston’s offense made sure to get him some support. Andrew Benintendi started the rally with a double into the left-field corner, and Moreland followed that up with a double of his own to put the Sox up 1-0 in the blink of an eye. Boston would then steal a couple of bases and draw three straight walks to give Brock Holt a bases loaded situation with a 2-0 lead. It seemed the utility man may have grounded into a double play, but Tampa Bay first baseman Jake Bauers’ throw to second ended up in left field, resulting in two more runs and no more outs. That would bring Sandy León up with two on and one out, but the Red Sox struck with their dumbest baserunning of the year. Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt attempted a double steal, but Glasnow hadn’t started his motion yet and they were caught in a double play on a double steal attempt. I had never seen it before, but it happened, and it ended the inning.
Following that four-run first inning, the Glasnow started to settle into a groove and the Red Sox offense saw their next five hitters go down. J.D. Martinez made sure that would end, and with two outs in the third he got a middle-middle fastball. He did what he does with middle-middle fastballs, launching it into the Red Sox bullpen for his 38th homer of the year and giving the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.
So, from here we fast-forward to the top of the sixth with that same score holding. At this point, Price was starting to lose his command a bit. He wasn’t a disaster by any means, but he wasn’t owning the edges of the zone like he had up to that point in the night. That inning started with a walk to Bauers, and after getting the first out of the inning Price settled in to face Cron. This matchup did not go well, as the lefty threw a cutter that just stayed flat in the middle of the zone and Cron demolished it out over everything in left field. Suddenly, it was just a three-run game.
The southpaw came back out for the top of the seventh with the same 5-2 lead, and he started things off by immediately allowing a double to Kevin Kiermaier. No worries, though, because David Price is good. He got a pair of strikeouts and a soft line out to strand the runner at second and hold the three-run lead.
The eighth belonged to Ryan Brasier, and he’d toss a 1-2-3 inning. That would bring Craig Kimbrel out for the ninth, and he got his own 1-2-3 inning. The Red Sox bullpen closed out the game without a hitch, and everyone went home happy.
So, the Red Sox have clinched another series win and they’ll have a chance to go for a sweep on Sunday back at Fenway. Neither side has officially announced their pitchers, but Hector Velazquez is almost certainly going for Boston and my guess is that Jalen Beeks will get the bulk of the time for the Rays after they use an Opener.