David Price is finally the pitcher the Red Sox thought he would be
David Price does not suck.
In 2018, there is no other way to say it. We know all about his shortcomings and the nonsense he has rained on our heads. Price has underachieved in Boston. He has not been “worth” the $217 million contract he signed after the 2015 season. He has insulted icon Dennis Eckersley, declined to apologize, and presented as tone deaf and provocative any time he has tried to be sarcastic or ironic. Throughout his career, he has failed as a postseason starter. He’s the guy who made Fortnite famous.
But in August of 2018, he is finally the pitcher the Red Sox thought they were buying, and they are going to need him to perform in October to get where they want to go.
Price stuffed the Cleveland Indians Thursday afternoon at Fenway, throwing eight scoreless innings of three-hit, no-walk baseball in a 7-0 Sox win. He struck out seven, throwing 101 pitches, 68 for strikes. He dominated.
And these were not the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, or any other American League bottom-feeders. These were the formidable Indians with two MVP candidates — a team that Boston could face on its potential path to the World Series.
When the game was over, as his teammates packed for a weekend trip to Tampa, Price stood in the middle of the room and said, “This is the pitcher Boston signed. For me to get back to that, it’s about time.’’
I love that. You should love it, too. For the first time in his three seasons in Boston, Price is pitching and talking like the blue-chip talent he was in those Cy Young days in Tampa, Detroit, and Toronto. He is once again the stud lefty who walked into the seventh game of the 2008 ALCS and struck out J.D. Drew with the bases loaded (Alex Cora was the Sox runner on third base) to help send the Rays to their one and only World Series.
In this feel-good Sox summer of 2018, Price has finally emerged as the dominant ace the Sox thought they were getting when John Henry and Dave Dombrowski signed him to the largest contract ever awarded to a big league pitcher.
Everybody remember how Price flamed out in New York July 1, surrendering eight runs and five homers in 3⅓ innings of an 11-1 Bronx beatdown? Price pledged to make some adjustments after that game and he has certainly fulfilled the promise.
He has moved to the first base side of the rubber. He has thrown fewer fastballs and used both sides of the plate. He has accentuated his cut fastball to righthanded batters. He has gone to a windup. And he has dominated.
The cherry-picked numbers are almost Koufaxian. In six starts since the All-Star break, Price is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA, 40 strikeouts, and 7 walks. He has won each of his last seven decisions at home. The Red Sox have won 16 of his last 18 starts.
Overall, he is 14-6 with a 3.50 ERA. He has pitched well against potential playoff opponents Houston, New York (in his last outing), and Cleveland. Price’s career ERA vs. the Tribe (2.06) is the lowest among active starters. Since 2014, he is 6-1 with a 1.26 ERA in eight regular-season starts against Cleveland.
Thursday’s performance was his best yet.
“That’s a playoff-caliber team,’’ said manager Cora. “It’s one of the best teams in the big leagues. He was outstanding today, probably his best start of the season.’’
“I felt good,’’ said Price. “I had all sorts of fastball command and I’ve done that extremely well over the past couple of weeks.’’
The 90-39 Red Sox have played 129 games and are going to win the AL East for a third straight season. They have a chance to set the franchise record for victories, but we all know they will be measured only by what they accomplish in October.
Throughout his career, Price has been more Mr. June than Mr. October, but his performance Thursday — and the Sox’ ability to bounce back and win the final two games of this “big” series — bodes well for Boston’s postseason.
After losses in the first two games of the series, there was a ripple of panic and some fear that the Red Sox might be broomed out of their own playpen. It did not happen. Wednesday’s and Thursday’s wins go down as two of the biggest victories of this thus-far-magical season.
And Price was a big part of it.
Finally, despite all the fear and loathing, let the record show that Price has not been a free agent bust of Panda proportions. While getting crushed on the airwaves and on social media, Price is 37-18 with a 3.73 ERA in his three seasons with the Red Sox. That may not be $217 million, but it’s far from Bust City.
I can’t wait to see how this ends. There’s nothing Price can do about October until October, but he is correct when he says he is finally performing like the pitcher Boston signed. And this is a good thing in what has been a great Red Sox regular season.