With the New York Yankees giving a bat flip to the Toronto Blue Jays in last night’s win, the Boston Red Sox are a game away from the division title.
The Red Sox sit six games on top of the American League East division with only six games left. Three games against the Yankees are between Boston and the Blue Jays duking it out in the last series of the season. If the Red Sox win and the Blue Jays lose to the Baltimore Orioles tonight, the division pennant comes to Massachusetts.
That possibility rests on the shoulders of David Price, who played for Toronto only a year ago.
While the lefty veteran had a shaky, inconsistent start to 2016, Price has done the job in the second half of the season. In his last 15 starts, Price posted a 9-2 record with a 3.08 ERA, allowing 20 walks while striking out 92 batters in 102.1 innings. In four of the last five starts, Price has gone past the seventh inning, giving his team quality appearances and giving the bullpen a rest for this stretch run.
The last game that Price didn’t get to the seventh? It was against the Yankees.
Price allowed five earned runs on nine hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts in six innings in Fenway Park. Red Sox Nation may have been praying in the cathedral of Boston, for which Price got a no-decision, but tonight’s game starts the series in Yankee Stadium.
Price started two other games in New York this season. He got the hook after only 4.2 innings back in May, when he gave up six earned runs on seven hits. Price lasted a bit longer in July, going 5.2 innings and giving up three earned runs on 11 hits. Both games went for losses on his record.
Overall, Price’s record stands at 17-8 with a 3.91 ERA; however, the Yankees seem to put down payments of pain on Price this year. Starlin Castro (.455), Jacoby Ellsbury (.353), Didi Gregorius (.444), Chase Headley (.367), and Brian McCann (.333) all have great batting averages against Price in their careers, and even young phenom Gary Sanchez has a home run and two RBIs off of him.
Fortunately for Price, Castro may miss the series and the rest of the season with a strain to his right hamstring. Still, those numbers are hard to ignore.
Another factor to consider is the intangible pressure that must be on Price, this evening. Essentially, the Red Sox are playing playoff baseball right now, trying to not only win the division but home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The A.L. West titleholders the Texas Rangers are tied with Boston and the Cleveland Indians are just one victory behind them. While the Rangers have been coasting after winning the west, posting a 5-5 record in their last 10 games, Cleveland is red hot with a 7-3 record in the same span.
The Red Sox bought Price in the offseason for this very scenario. A seven-year contract worth $217 million brought the veteran’s services to Boston with the expectation of ace-quality starts. Recently, that’s been the case against anyone not a Yankee. Price’s Blue Jay friends saw him collapse a bit in the 2015 playoffs, and he now has the chance to eliminate them from the A.L. East title race.
That’s alright, Red Sox Nation can forgive Price if he wants to make his apologies in their last series against the Blue Jays, as long as he beats the Yankees tonight.