Red Sox: David Price leaving us without reason to criticize

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 04: David Price
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 04: David Price /

David Price delivered his best start of the season for the Boston Red Sox last night against the Texas Rangers, further silencing his critics.

The Boston Red Sox are riding a six-game winning streak, building a fairly comfortable four game cushion at the top of the AL East in the process. The offense is rolling with 40 runs scored over the last four games to kick off July. The lineup is even starting to hit home runs, with six already this month. Now David Price has delivered his best start of the season, inching closer to vintage form.

So… what are we going to complain about now?

Boston has a top-five scoring offense and the best pitching staff in the league. As their division lead continues to grow, their playoff probability has risen to 87.5 percent. The Red Sox may not be heavy favorites to win the pennant but they will almost certainly be competing for it in October. Yet a passionate fan base with an unquenchable thirst for winning has spent the better part of this season picking apart the flaws on this roster.

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Injuries have deprived the Red Sox of their once vaunted rotation depth, leaving them to pick for scraps to fill the void at the back end. Third base has been a wasteland for much of the season. Ownership’s reluctance to pay the draconian luxury tax penalties cost them the chance to find a legitimate power threat to fill Big Papi’s shoes.

Fans, media, talking heads and bloggers have all spent a considerable amount of energy pointing out all the reasons destined to derail the Red Sox, yet here they are charging into the All-Star break in first place.

With the team’s fortunes trending in the right direction, critics need to find a new punching bag. Price has always been an easy target. No matter what he does, many people in Boston will view him a failing to live up to his $217 million contract until he wins in the postseason. In order for Price to have another opportunity to prove himself on the October stage, the Red Sox need to make the playoffs first. Returning to the level that earned Price that mammoth contract in the first place will be a significant factor in getting them there.

Price took another step toward reclaiming that ace status with his best start of the season Tuesday night. The veteran lefty tossed six-plus shutout innings and struck out a season-high nine batters to beat the Texas Rangers.

"“He was outstanding,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters after the game, per WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “He had all of his pitches working here tonight. He was able to get quite a few number of swing and miss to his fastball when he elevated it to some guys. He threw some good changeups, good cutters. The power was consistent throughout the night. He was dominant for six innings tonight.”"

Price threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes (66 percent), relying more heavily on a fastball that hovered in the mid-90’s. He got opposing hitters to swing and miss 14.2 percent of the time, his second-highest rate this season.

This was Price’s fifth quality start in eight chances this season. He’s allowed more than three runs only once all season – a six-run shellacking in the Bronx early last month. Take away that one brutal outing against the Yankees and Price has a 3.21 ERA, which is a tick better than his career rate. One poor start in a small sample size is all it takes to skew the perception that Price can still be an elite pitcher.

After his last promising outing, Price is changing that narrative.

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Price still has a long way to go to win the adoration of Red Sox Nation. While he still has his fair share of critics, his recent performance is at least keeping them quiet for now. If Price can build momentum from his recent success and carry it through the playoffs, he may finally silence those critics once and for all.