BALTIMORE — David Price woke up on Wednesday morning, read some comments Dennis Eckersley made about him in a Globe feature story, and decided to further stir the embers of his two-year-old feud with the team broadcaster and Hall of Famer.
Price posted a few jabs on Twitter, then called reporters to his locker at Fenway Park later in the day to bang the drum again. He made sure everybody knew how he felt.
Who started this latest chapter of their dispute didn’t matter when Price took the mound against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night. His job was to put that aside, beat the worst team in baseball, and keep the Red Sox dogpaddling in the playoff pool.
Price instead allowed six runs over four innings in what was an embarrassing 11-2 loss for the Red Sox.
Price’s start was a fastball over the plate for his critics. He put himself out there with his comments and didn’t deliver two days later when he pitched.
“Anything off the field, it doesn’t affect how I prepare, affect the way that I pitch,” Price said. “That doesn’t affect me at all. I’m sure it’ll be used back in Boston. But it doesn’t affect me.”
Price overcame actual pressure last October when he helped pitch the Red Sox to a championship and ended a string of poor postseason performances. So the idea that the Eckersley issue was somehow a distraction is far-fetched.
“If you think I’m thinking about that out there on the mound tonight, you’re 100 percent wrong,” Price said. “That’s not the case. It didn’t affect me.”
But professional athletes essentially strike a bargain when they choose to wade into controversy. They can get away with it as long as they perform.
Bill Lee specialized in outlandish statements, but usually found a way to beat the Yankees. Manny Ramirez was high maintenance, but always drove in runs. How many squalls did David Ortiz end by belting a home run?
If you speak up, you have to back it up. Megan Rapinoe could teach a class on that after the World Cup.
But Price left himself open for second-guessing. Add it to the list of annoyances manager Alex Cora had had to deal with.
“These guys, they work and they give their all to the organization. What [Price] did last year, that was amazing to the city and us,” Cora said. “I don’t want to say it was unfair. . . . The timing was like, ‘Why now?’ It was out of nowhere.
“David is very honest and he speaks his mind. But at the same time, why do we have to talk about this while we’re in the middle of the season?”
The Sox are 11 games behind the Yankees, matching the their largest deficit of the season. A fourth consecutive division title isn’t happening, and even a wild-card berth is unlikely to produce much more than a quick exit from the playoffs given this team’s inconsistency.
The bottom three hitters of Baltimore’s lineup were 4 for 6 with two-extra base hits, three runs scored and two RBIs against Price.
One of the runs came when J.D. Martinez so badly misplayed a ball in right field, Richie Martin raced around the bases.
It was scored a triple and an error. That run wasn’t Price’s fault, but the rest were.
Price gave up a three-run homer to Anthony Santander in the first inning. It was Santander’s second career home run against a lefthander in 83 at-bats.
“When you give up runs with two outs, that’s always tough,” Price said. “It’s been my Achilles heel for a long time. It’s something I struggled with early on this year and it was a problem [Friday].”
With the Sox down 4-2, Price allowed a two-run homer to Keon Broxton, who at the time was a .174 hitter. The loss was Price’s first in 13 career starts at Camden Yards.
Price allowed 10 runs over nine innings in his last two starts. As the Sox get Nate Eovaldi back to bolster their bullpen, they now have to get Price fixed.
It has to happen soon. Once they finish this three-game series with the Orioles, the Sox play 14 in a row against the Yankees and Rays.
Forget about pitchers arguing with announcers. The Sox have much bigger issues than old feuds.