This was the David Price that Red Sox wanted to see
ATLANTA — The Red Sox gave David Price a four-run lead in the first inning against the team with the worst record in baseball on Tuesday night. So it was a bit troubling when the Atlanta Braves strung together three straight hits and scored a run in the bottom of the inning.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts walked to the mound and grabbed the rosin bag, delaying the game a few seconds so he could give Price some words of reassurance.
The concerns quickly abated. Price otherwise dominated for eight innings as the Red Sox beat the Braves, 11-4, before a crowd of 23,487 that cheered the visiting team throughout.
Price allowed two runs on six hits and struck out 14, including the final five batters he faced. The Sox backed him with 13 hits, nine for extra bases. Travis Shaw drove in a career-high five runs with a home run and a double.
“I needed it,” Price said. “That was good to go out there and throw the baseball the way that I know that I’m capable of throwing it. Everybody needs that.”
The 14 strikeouts matched a career high for Price. They were the most for a Red Sox pitcher since Jon Lester fanned 15 Athletics on May 3, 2014.
“From the second inning on, that’s as crisp and as sharp as we’ve seen David this year,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “He was powerful, he had a full assortment of pitches.”
Price had a 7.06 earned run average in his first four starts, a red flag difficult to ignore. But the peripheral numbers suggested a quick turnaround. Price was averaging 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings and had walked only six.
“It’s not been stuff,” Farrell said. “It’s been more consistent location, particularly to both sides of the plate when he’s faced a righthanded-hitting lineup.”
Against the Braves, who have lost seven in a row, Price was able to get rolling after the first inning and gave the Sox his longest outing of the season. Of his 114 pitches, 78 were strikes.
“I don’t care about strikeouts, man. That doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Price, who has struck out 46 in 29⅔ innings this season. “I want to be able to go out there and pitch as deep as I can in the baseball game. I want to get 27 outs every five days. Twenty-four is good.”
Price (3-0) will make his next start at Fenway Park on Sunday night against the Yankees.
The Red Sox (11-9) won four of five on their road trip and play the Braves at Fenway Park for two games starting Wednesday.
Atlanta (4-16) has scored 12 runs in their last six games and has gone 15 games without hitting a home run. They are hitting .227 as a team.
The Sox, in their final regular-season game at Turner Field, gave Price a 4-0 lead in the first inning and made Braves starter Matt Wisler throw 38 pitches.
Dustin Pedroia walked with one out before Bogaerts (3 for 5) singled sharply to center field. Shaw then homered deep to right field, crunching a fastball. It was his second of the season.
“A beautiful swing,” Farrell said.
Shaw, who hit cleanup with David Ortiz on the bench in the National League park, has noticed opposing pitchers working him inside in recent days. He focused on that in the batting cage before the game and took an inside pitch before hitting the home run.
“It felt good to take what I worked on earlier today into the game, especially in the first inning,” Shaw said.
Making quick adjustments was something Shaw was able to do as a rookie last season.
“I wanted to be able to close that out before it got out of hand,” he said.
With two outs, Wisler hit Jackie Bradley Jr. with a pitch. When Brock Holt dropped a double into right field, Bradley scored from first.
The Sox have scored 26 runs in the first inning this season, hitting .352 with 12 extra-base hits.
“Our offense is clicking now,” said Bradley, who also contributed an RBI triple. “We have to keep it going and start stringing together some wins.”
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Price allowed singles by Adonis Garcia, Freddie Freeman, and Jeff Francoeur, giving the Braves a run. Price then walked Tyler Flowers, who saw eight pitches. The inning finally ended when Drew Stubbs struck out.
Price had retired seven straight — five by strikeout — going into the fourth inning. The Braves scored that inning but not again.
Wisler (0-2) allowed five runs on five hits. The Sox scored five runs in the ninth inning against Ryan Weber. Christian Vazquez, Chris Young, Shaw, and Hanley Ramirez had doubles and Bradley a triple.
Red Sox righthander Pat Light made his major league debut and allowed two runs. He put three runners on base before getting three straight groundouts. His parents and several friends were at the game.
“Once I got that first out, I felt pretty good from there,” Light said. “This is the big leagues, this is what you dream of. To get that first one out of the way, OK, maybe I do belong here.”