At least he proved he could pitch well against the Yankees.
David Price didn’t beat them as he left the game in the seventh when he put two men on and both scored, erasing the 1-0 lead he had after pitching six strong innings. That probably should have been it. Leave with a lead and leave on a positive note after 95 pitches. But with the bottom of the order due up in the seventh, Alex Cora wanted to see if he could get one more inning out of price.
Heath Hembree came on, Xander Bogaerts made an error, and before you knew it the 1-0 lead was a 4-1 defecit. But when Boston came back in the bottom of the ninth to tie it against Aroldis Chapman before taking a 5-4 win in the 10th, Price avoided the loss.
Price left the field in the seventh to a standing ovation, one of the few signs of love Price has felt from the Boston fans since he got here.
The pressure was on Price to prove to the fans, to his teammates, to the organization, to himself, that he can pitch well against the Yankees. He had been 2-6, with an 8.43 ERA (44 ER/47 IP) in nine starts vs. the Yankees since joining the Red Sox. He’d lost both of his previous outings against them this season, allowing 12 runs in just 4⅓ innings (0-2, with a 24.92 ERA).
Price allowed a single to Brett Gardner and a walk to Austin Romine before Cora came out to get him.
“Lefty against lefty with Gardner, but he got a hit. I know numbers said Romine is good against him there, but there are a lot of singles in there, we trust the guy,” Cora said of his reasoning for bringing Price out for the seventh inning. “He was locked in commanding the strike zone and we felt it was a good matchup for us.”
The final line Sunday night was six-plus innings, four hits, two runs, three walks, one hit batter, and five strikeouts. It could have been better, but this was a case of Cora trying to go too long with Price instead of letting him leave the game on a good note.
If you went by the first inning when he loaded the bases, but got out of it unharmed, you would have thought ‘Here we go again!’ But it wasn’t that at all. Price wasn’t dazzling, but he was good. He escaped a couple of jams, had some efficient innings, and made it through six innings without allowing a run.
“That was huge,” Price said of getting out of the jam. “I think in the last two starts against them I’d given up three runs, so it was big to get out of that.”
He showed a strong changeup and cutter, and at times was squeezed by home plate umpire Chris Conroy.
While the pressure was on Price, the Red Sox had already taken the first three games of the series and therefore won the series. The Sox had an 8½-game lead entering the night, so if Price had lost, no biggie in that regard.
Price has been pitching well of late. He got a no decision against another really good team, the Phillies, allowing one run in eight innings in a 2-1 Red Sox win in 13 innings his last time out. Price was 2-0, with a 1.71 ERA (4 ER/21 IP) over his previous three starts. Price relied primarily on his offspeed stuff during this three-game span, throwing a few more cutters but a lot more change-ups. In his last three starts, he’d thrown 37.5 percent fastballs, which is down from the 50.4 percent he’d thrown in his first 18 starts. He threw 30.1 percent cutters as opposed to 27.9 percent in his first 19 starts.
With Price locked in a 0-0 pitcher’s duel with Masahiro Tanaka, the Red Sox got on the board in the fifth inning when Mookie Betts uncorked a 437-foot homer over the Green Monster on a 2-0 fastball.
It looked ominous in the first inning when Price allowed a single to Giancarlo Stanton with one out, hit Didi Gregorius with a pitch, and allowed a two-out single to Miguel Andujar to load the bases. But Price got Luke Voit to tap back to the mound, retiring the side with no damage done.
Gardner, Romine, and Shane Robinson all flied out in a much quicker second inning.
In the fourth, Price felt he was being squeezed by Conroy, whose borderline calls added to Price’s pitch count when he walked Voit with two outs. He went to 3-2 on Gardner before striking him out on a cutter. As he walked off the mound, Price was visibly upset as he strolled to the dugout.
In the fifth, Price escaped another jam when Romine was stranded at third.
Price got through six really well. His night probably should have ended there. While there was no win for him, the win came in knowing the Yankees no longer own him.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.