The Boston Red Sox gave David Price ace money over the winter.
Now, finally, after months of wobbling and hand-wringing, he’s giving them ace results.
Price wasn’t awful in the first half. At the very least, he proved he could still miss bats with 140 strikeouts in 124.1 innings. But the 4.34 ERA he lugged into the All-Star break wasn’t what the Red Sox had in mind when they inked Price for seven years and $217 million in December 2015.
His early troubles, as Bleacher Report’s Zachary D. Rymer outlined in May, seemed to revolve around diminished velocity and less spin on his pitches. He was flat. He was hittable.
Overall, Price’s average fastball velocity this season (92.9 mph) is down a tick from his career mark (94.2). In his most recent start against the Baltimore Orioles, however, he frequently touched the mid-90s.
The result was eight innings of two-run, two-hit ball with nine strikeouts and no walks as Boston rolled to a 12-2 win Monday.
In a dozen second-half starts, Price is 7-2 with a 3.00 ERA. The Red Sox, at 81-62, sit in first place in the potent, competitive American League East, two games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays (79-64), three up on the O’s (78-65) and five ahead of the New York Yankees (76-67).
Everything, in other words, is coming together for Boston.
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
After an uneven start to his Red Sox career, Price has been excellent since the All-Star break.
“I knew good things were going to happen to me,” Price said, per Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. “I’ve had a lot of good things over the course of how many starts it’s been. Whether it’s hard-hit balls going at guys or soft-hit balls not finding the holes, whenever I make a really good pitch, having good things happen, that’s what’s going on for me my past couple of starts. I just want to keep it going.”
On Monday, Price hit a milestone that put him in some elite Beantown company, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe outlined:
David Price has crossed 200 innings for 2016 in Game No. 143, the earliest a Red Sox has arrived at that threshold since ’04 (Schilling).
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) September 13, 2016
Price is a ways off from matching Curt Schilling’s Red Sox legacy. He’ll need a couple Commissioner’s Trophies and perhaps a bloody sock to do that.
But this is the innings-chewing, strikeout-stacking, rotation-topping stud the Sox thought they were getting. And while they would’ve loved to have this guy from April onward, he’s showing up at the best possible time.
The Red Sox have other weapons in the rotation, including 20-game winner Rick Porcello, trade-deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz, young left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and knuckleballer Steven Wright, assuming he returns from a shoulder injury.
The offense leads MLB in batting average, runs and OPS. David Ortiz is cranking back the clock in his farewell season, and whippersnappers like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are joining the party. If anything propels Boston back to the promised land, it’ll be the bats.
Price, though, has a chance to be a difference-maker.
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
Price has a chance to boost his subpar postseason numbers.
His career postseason resume is far from sterling, as he owns a 5.12 ERA in 63.1 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers and Toronto. Now, he can boost his October legacy and vault into the pantheon of Red Sox heroes.
“We all have that feeling in the clubhouse, out in the dugout,” Price said, per WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable. “This is a very close-knit group of guys. That is what you want to be part of. That is what makes 162 games plus spring training that much fun.”
A few months ago, “fun” wasn’t a word you’d have connected to Price. Now, it meshes.
Yes, during his recent run of success, the veteran southpaw got starts against the San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s, Rays and Kansas City Royals, all of whom rank among the bottom third in MLB in scoring.
That’s what made Monday’s effort so promising. Price tamed a fearsome Orioles lineup that paces baseball in home runs mashed. The Sox will face the O’s six more times. In addition, they’ve got seven games against the upstart, archrival Yankees and three against the big-swinging Jays.
Price will be tested. He’ll be forced to show his cards.
Judging by recent returns, he could well come up aces.
All statistics current as of Monday and courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.