This weekend’s series against the Yankees at Fenway isn’t quite over yet, but it’s already been everything we could have asked for and more. The Red Sox have taken care of business in the biggest series of the year, and that’s putting it mildly. They’ve already clinched the upper hand in the four-game set by taking the first three games, and at worst they’ll leave Boston and head to Toronto with a 7.5-game edge in the American League East. Even the most optimistic of us probably didn’t see that happening at any point this year.
What’s been particularly thrilling about this series is that they’ve gotten contributions from almost everyone. The lineup won the first game with a huge rally and just a general onslaught through that game. Steve Pearce stepped up for the first two games. Mookie Betts got on base six times on Thursday. The bottom of the lineup got things going on Friday. Both Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi were as good as any Red Sox starter has been all year. The team is truly firing on all cylinders right now, and it’s happening at the absolute perfect time.
Now, with one game left in the series, they have a chance to put the cherry on top and bury the Yankees 9.5 games behind them in the American League East. Obviously, they’ll take a win however they can get it, but if David Price can take the mound and put forth a strong outing against the Yankees, it would be the perfect end to a nearly perfect series. At this point, we all know the narrative around Price that says he simply cannot succeed in these kinds of atmospheres, whether it be against the Yankees in general or in important games.
This is a good time to remind everyone that calling something a narrative is not the same as saying it’s flatly untrue. As much as I’d like to say the people who spread this about Price are all buffoons, it’s really hard to ignore all of the data we have on the lefty at this point. I think anyone who says they know he can’t succeed in these spots are full of it, but Price certainly hasn’t earned any benefit of the doubt. I think it’s clear at this point there is some mental barrier he needs to pass when he faces the Yankees. It’s been every time he’s faced them the last couple of years, and at a certain point it just doesn’t matter how good you are. If one team owns you as much as the Yankees have owned Price of late, that becomes impossible ignore.
On the plus side, the veteran is showing a strong sense of confidence to the media, which is at least a good first step. I’d be worried if he “no comment”-ed his way through media appearances leading up to this start, and I’d be even more worried if he avoided public appearance all together (though I’d probably understand). That he’s stepping up and saying he found a hitch that can be fixed shows that he is not afraid of the Yankees, at least not publicly. That certainly doesn’t guarantee success on Sunday night, but if you’re looking for evidence in the immediate lead-up, this is the best you’ll get.
If Price can come out and have a big start on Sunday, it would be a big development for this team and should help his reputation among at least some fans. Granted, not everyone would come around because of one start (arguably smart), but whatever. More than its affect on fans, it would be a big confident boost for himself. Like I said, I feel like the struggles against New York feel mostly mental, and that is the type of issue that can be resolved with just one good start. Even if you know you are good enough to do something — like Price likely knows he’s good enough to beat the Yankees — actually doing it just once makes it all that much more real. It’s the type of thing that can carry into some potentially big series later in the year as well as the postseason.
Now, there will be counter-narratives to come up quickly if and when Price does succeed on Sunday. People will bring up how the Yankees offense isn’t really The Yankees Offense when it doesn’t have Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. They’ll say that this really wasn’t that big of a game with the Red Sox having already delivered a big blow with the rest of the series. This game was just gravy. Maybe they’re right. I don’t know. Maybe Price will go out and struggle yet again, making the cries against him even louder and even more difficult to fight against. Maybe he won’t, though. This series has gone pretty much perfectly to date, maybe that can continue on Sunday. If it does, it would be a huge development for Price and the perfect cherry on top of this amazing weekend at Fenway.