Red Sox: Is Texas David Price’s Daddy or Craig Kimbrel’s?

The Texas Rangers seem to be the bane of David Price‘s existence, but the Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has his own troubles with the southern state.

Last night’s game may have happened in the cathedral of Boston, but any prayers that the Red Sox would make a full comeback to win the game fell upon deaf ears. Besides, they already did it in the fourth inning, not expecting to have to do it again later in the match.

Big free agent signing David Price was supposed to be the ace of the rotation, but he’s been victim of either poor play or a lack of run support in his six losses and four no-decisions in 18 starts. Two starts before, against the same Rangers in Texas, Price only threw for 2.1 innings before getting the hook early, allowing six earned runs on 12 hits, yet it was for a no-decision. In his last start, Price threw for 6.1 innings against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays and allowed four earned runs on nine hits and 10 strikeouts for the loss.

Fenway Park saw the better of the two Prices, as the Tennessee native threw for eight full innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. However, there must be something about Texas that has this cloud of doom floating over Price’s head, as he still took the loss last night. In Price’s career, Texas owns the best opposing batting average (.297) for a team he has pitched against at least 10 times or more. The Rangers also have the most runs scored against Price (43), other than an American League East opponent.

Price’s issues with the Rangers was most noticeably acute last postseason, when he played for the Toronto Blue Jays. In the A.L. Division Series, Price pitched 10 innings and allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits. He even hit two batters with his pitches in the series, to the dismay of Blue Jays fans across Canada. A famous bat flip later and Toronto won the series, but the Rangers seemed to have burst the bubble of Price being the dominant veteran pitcher who could be depended upon to shut the door every time he took the mound.

Yet, Price is not alone as a Red Sox pitcher having trouble with a Texas team.

Kimbrel’s reputation, coming into this season, was almost legendary as a closer. He was brought to the team to take over for Koji Uehara, the hero of 2013 who was starting to show his age as a shut-down artist. While he hadn’t had too much trouble with the Rangers, at least until last night, Kimbrel’s issues were with the other Texas team, the Houston Astros. In 12 appearances, Kimbrel’s ERA is 5.06 with his second worst opposing team batting average being .220 in only 10.2 innings of work.

Jul 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) reacts after giving up a home run against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

When Kimbrel entered the game for Price, the game was still within reach, as the Rangers were winning the game 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning. The Alabama native, however, couldn’t even make a single out before getting the hook. After a walk and a single to the first two batters, the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar singled to score another run before Robinson Chirinos cranked his sixth home run of the season over the Green Monster to push the lead out of reach, 7-2.

Kimbrel’s 3.66 ERA for 2016 is pretty shocking, especially when looking at some of the other relievers on the Red Sox. Middle relievers like Heath Hembree (2.04) and Matt Barnes (3.12) have lower ERAs, even though they have both pitched more innings than Kimbrel.

Price’s 4.64 ERA is also pretty surprising this year. Rick Porcello has a 10-2 record and a 3.82 ERA, after having an absolutely brutal season last year. And, Steven Wright, the supposed fifth starter of Boston’s rotation, has a 9-5 record with a 2.42 ERA and a much, much smaller paycheck than Price.

Calling Price and Kimbrel ‘disastrous’ additions is too severe to say, but ‘disappointing’ is pretty fair. Expectations were very high for both men to come to Boston and shut down opposing teams completely. Maybe those expectations were unrealistic, though. Kimbrel’s issues are not that unusual for a player changing teams from the National League to the American League. New teams equals new adversaries to figure out. Price is also 30 years old with nine seasons of MLB pitching experience taking a toll on his body and a horrendous 2015 postseason wearing on his mind. Not to mention a contract worth $217 million to live up to, in front of his third new set of home fans in three seasons.

At least Price and Kimbrel can be happy that they don’t play in the A.L. West division. They’d have both the Rangers and the Astros to compete against. So far, that hasn’t been an enjoyable experience for either man. That may not be a pleasant thought for the Red Sox either, especially in the fall when Boston will want to be in the playoffs. The Rangers and the Astros are in first and second place in the A.L. West, with the Rangers well ahead of the pack. The road to the World Series may run through Texas, making both Price and Kimbrel have to overcome their pasts to hurdle into a championship opportunity.