David Price, ladies and gentleman. The Red Sox lefty had been mostly solid in his first couple starts of the year even if he wasn’t quite up to his standards. At the very least, he had been much better than his rotation-mates. Well, on Sunday he took things to another level. He had all of his stuff working and for the most part his command was on point with everything, leading to a dominant performance. He didn’t allow a run over his seven innings of work, and while he did get into trouble a few times on the afternoon he quickly settled down and escaped any and all jams sent his way. This was important because the Red Sox offense also failed to take advantage of their situations. They ended up opening a bit more of a lead late, but for most of this game it was a one-run lead or tied at zeroes.
The Red Sox had seen both ends of the spectrum in terms of starting pitching performance over the first two games of this four-game set against the Orioles. On Friday, Eduardo Rodriguez was brilliant against his former employer putting forth one of his better outings over the last couple years. Then, on Saturday, Rick Porcello continued what has been a disastrous season walking five in an outing that ended without any outs recorded in the fifth. So, David Price had two paths to take. Heading into this start, the southpaw had been the best and most consistent starter in Boston’s rotation to begin 2019, though that obviously is the lowest of low bars. Still, there was reason for optimism for Price’s first Fenway start of the year.
The optimism was rewarded with the lefty performing extremely well against this Baltimore lineup. He wasted no time getting rolling, too, kicking things off with a quick 1-2-3 first inning. The second did begin with a base hit from Renato Núñez to give Baltimore their first baserunner of the afternoon, but Price got three straight outs after that to make sure the runner never advanced beyond first base.
After a 1-2-3 third that included two strikeouts, one on the fastball and the other on the cutter, trouble appeared to be brewing the fourth. This couldn’t be put on Price, though, as his defense let him down. Joey Rickard led off the frame with a ground ball to third base, and Devers made the stop deep towards the line. His throw ended up sailing on him, however, bouncing off the top of the glove of a jumping Steve Pearce at first and ending up in Boston’s dugout. That put Rickard at second base with nobody out. Price came back strong, though, getting a strikeout before Rickard was caught trying to steal third. Price got one more strikeout and what looked like trouble ended up being a three-batter inning.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was looking for a consistent attack against a lefty in John Means who they had not seen before. Their first chance to get on the board came in the second when J.D. Martinez was hit by a pitch and Xander Bogaerts poked a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Dustin Pedroia then hit a fly ball to right field but Martinez played it safe and opted to stay at third rather than trying to score. That would be costly, as Eduardo Núñez grounded into a double play immediately after, ending the inning with the score still knotted up at zero.
In the third, the Red Sox may have taken a blow. Andrew Benintendi came up with two outs in the inning and on the second pitch of his at bat he fouled one right into his ankle/foot. He immediately fell to the ground after that and was checked out by the trainers. Benintendi did stay in the game and poked a double into the left field corner, though he didn’t look quite right running into second. He would be stranded there, and Blake Swihart was in his place out in left field to begin the next inning.
Finally, in the fourth they would break through to an extent. Pearce got this one started with a base hit and that was followed by a double off the Monster in left field. With two men in scoring position and nobody out, Bogaerts came up and knocked a sacrifice fly out to center field. That gave Boston a one-run lead with Martinez also moving up to third base. Pedroia now had another chance with a runner 90 feet away from the plate, but this time he hit a nubber out towards the mound. Martinez made a poor read and was off on contact, eventually getting himself caught in a rundown that resulted in a bad second out. Pedroia did move up to second during the rundown, but he would be left there and Boston had to settle for just a 1-0 lead.
From here we fast-forward to the sixth with Price having not allowed a hit since that leadoff single to Núñez in the second. That would end quickly when Orioles shortstop Richie Martin knocked a double out to left-center field to lead off the top half of the sixth. This was a big spot for Price looking to preserve the one-run lead, and he did so wonderfully. Cedric Mullins tried to bunt the runner over but ended up striking out, which was the same outcome awaiting Jonathan Villar. Rickard had a chance to tie the game with a base hit and he ripped a line drive to the left side, but fortunately it was right at Devers and Price escaped the jam.
After the Red Sox stranded two more in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, the seventh started just like the sixth with an Orioles double. Once again, though, Price worked his way out of trouble, this time with a fly out, a grounder back to the mound and a pop up. That escape would mark the end of a tremendous afternoon for the Red Sox lefty in which he tossed seven scoreless innings on just three hits with seven strikeouts. He also didn’t walk anyone.
With Pirce now out of the game, the Red Sox bullpen had two innings to protect this one-run lead. Ryan Brasier was called upon first for the top of the eighth, and the righty got himself into trouble. After starting the inning with a strikeout, Brasier walked the next batter he saw. Two batters later, Villar ripped a base hit through the middle and Baltimore had runners on the corners with two outs for pinch hitter Dwight Smith Jr. Fortunately, Brasier got a routine fly ball to center field and the 1-0 lead was still intact.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox finally added some insurance to their lead and made things a little easier on their pitching. That inning got going with a Betts single and a couple batters later Martinez would rip a base hit of his own. That brought Bogaerts to the plate with two on, and he got a hanging slider up over the middle of the plate. The shortstop didn’t miss it, sending it way out to center field for a three-run shot and suddenly Boston had a 4-0 lead.
Now it was just up to Matt Barnes, and he had a much bigger lead to protect than it originally appeared he’d have. The righty got off to a rough start, walking the first batter he saw before allowing a solid single to the third. He recovered from there, though, getting a ground out and a strike out and the Red Sox finished off a shutout victory.
The Red Sox and Orioles are scheduled to finish off this series on Monday morning for their annual 11:00 AM Patriots Day game. Unfortunately, there appears to be a good chance for rain to get in the way. If they do play, Hector Velázquez should match up against Dan Straily.