The Red Sox have been great in so many areas for so much of the year, but if you are going to point to one guy who has carried them and saved their bullpen time and time again in this second half, it’s David Price. The lefty finally stopped going with his fastball-heavy approach midway through the year, and the results have been bananas. He was on his A-game again on Wednesday, flirting with a perfect game for about half the game and then still looking great after it was broken up. The offense didn’t make it an easy win and we all had to sweat this night out, but the offense can have some off nights with pitching like this. Price is for real.
As has been the case for this entire second half, Price was everything we could have asked for and more on Wednesday night. By this point, we know what it looks like when Price is going well. He’s utilizing his changeup as a legitimate out pitch, and he’s working the corners of the plate without breaking a sweat. If he’s getting a ton of strikeouts looking, it’s going to be a good night. Well, that’s exactly what he did against the Blue Jays and it’s hard not to feel good about him as the number two heading into the postseason despite his previous struggles in October.
Really, there’s not much to say about his performance other than saying he was extremely difficult to square up and he had the command we are all looking for when he takes the mound. All Price did to start his outing off was retire the first 13 batters he faced in a run that included four strikeouts. It was only four-and-a-third innings, but he was looking so sharp and so efficient a perfect game really didn’t seem that far out of the realm of possibility.
Well, those dreams were dashed when Yangervis Solarte came up as the 14th batter to face Price. The infielder didn’t get great wood on the ball, but he was able to connect for a soft line drive that looped into center field, wiping out both the perfect game and no-hitter with a single. Of course, Price came back and got two outs to end the inning without any more damage. He’d give up another single in the sixth, and Jonathan Davis made it to second on an ugly passed ball from Sandy León, but Price’s shutout would make it through six.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were once again struggling against the opponents’ starter. This time it was Aaron Sanchez, who has had a rough year but looked pretty good tonight. Granted, Boston helped him out with some ugly swings, but his curveball looked about as strong as I’ve ever seen it, and it took his game to anther level.
Boston did get off to a better start than Toronto did against Price, and they looked like they might be able to get on the board early. Mookie Betts led off the game with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and then over to third on a ground out. That put him 90 feet away from the plate with just one out and the middle of the lineup coming up. Unfortunately, J.D. Martinez struck out chasing a high fastball and Xander Bogaerts hit a routine grounder to first base, squandering the opportunity.
After that, the bats went very quiet for a few innings, they did get a leadoff walk from Mitch Moreland in the second, but they only brought three men to the plate that inning due to a double play. That would also be their last baserunner in the fifth, though they did get one hit in between when Bogaerts hit a single but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. (He did look safe on replay, but it was a poor decision either way.)
In the fifth, though, they did break through to an extent. Once again they got started with a Moreland walk, and this time he was cut out by a fielder’s choice. That put Rafael Devers on first instead, and he quickly ran on a hit-and-run with Brock Holt at the plate. It worked out perfectly as Holt smacked one through a wide-open left side, putting runners on the corners with one out. León couldn’t get his fly ball deep enough to score the run, leaving it up to Jackie Bradley Jr. Sanchez took the opportunity from Bradley, however, throwing a wild pitch in the dirt that got to the back stop and allowed Devers to score. Bradley would eventually walk to set up a runners on the corners situation for Betts, but the Red Sox settled for the 1-0 lead.
Following a 1-2-3 inning from the Red Sox offense in the sixth, Price was out to protect the one-run lead. It looked like it would be another quick inning for the lefty when he got a ground out and a strike out to kick things off, but then Solarte came through with his second hit of the day. After bringing in Aledmys Diaz for a pinch hitter, the Blue Jays were a double away from tying things up with Teoscar Hernandez at the plate. He fought for a six-pitch at bat, but he’d eventually succumb to a Price changeup and end the inning with a whiff.
Boston’s bats would go down in order once again in the seventh, and Alex Cora turned to the bullpen to protect the one-run lead with two innings left. Steven Wright got the call in the eighth. Things did not get off to a great start when Rowdy Tellez put a ball in the left-center field gap for a leadoff double. Wright followed that up with a four-pitch walk and things were bleak. Somehow, the knuckleballer came back, though. He’d get a strike out against Kevin Pillar, then a fielder’s choice from Billy McKinney to put runners on the corners with two outs for Devon Travis. The second baseman hit one on a line, but it was right at Betts and the Red Sox escaped the inning with their lead intact.
The Red Sox had a chance with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom half of the eighth, but failed to score, leaving it up to Craig Kimbrel to protect to the one-run lead. The closer wasn’t quite as sharp as we’d like to see, but he battled through some control issues to dole out one walk but otherwise lock down the ninth. That’s 100 wins. Pretty good!
The Red Sox have clinched a series victory, and they will be back in action on Thursday looking for a sweep. Boston will send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in the series finale to take on Sam Gaviglio, with first pitch coming at 7:10 PM ET.
With the victory, the Red Sox watched their magic number to clinch the division fall to eight, and it could fall even further with a Yankees loss. As I write this New York is losing 1-0 and have no hits through six innings. So, if you can, maybe flip that on.