Red Sox: David Price is back to pitching like an ace

BOSTON, MA - JULY 16: David Price
BOSTON, MA - JULY 16: David Price /

After taking some time to round back into form following a delayed start to the season, Boston Red Sox starter David Price is pitching like an ace again.

The Boston Red Sox were in desperate need of a stopper on the heels of a gut-wrenching 16-inning marathon followed by another loss in the top half of a double-header the next day. They needed an ace to stop the bleeding and keep their division lead from dwindling further, only it wasn’t Chris Sale‘s turn to pitch again yet.

David Price needed a signature performance to show he can still be that guy. With the New York Yankees in town looking to win their third straight at Fenway, Price delivered to salvage a series split.

The $217 million man was in vintage form under the bright lights of Sunday Night Baseball. Price’s performance was his best of the season, blanking the Yankees over eight innings. He scattered seven hits and struck out eight, one shy of his season-high.

"“That was just a great game from him,” manager John Farrell told reporters after the game, per ESPN’s Scott Lauber. “He was outstanding — powerful from start to finish, a lot of strikes, very good command. It was impressive to see how he maintained his stuff throughout. Fastball to both sides of the plate. I thought he had a really good cutter. On a night when we needed a bounce-back win, it was a big performance by David.”"

The Red Sox became the first team this season to shutout the Yankees once Craig Kimbrel slammed the door on the ninth inning. Price earned his fifth victory of the season and third in his last four appearances. He’s only been tagged with a loss twice in ten starts, the last of which came over three weeks ago.

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The stellar outing lowered Price’s ERA to 3.39, which would rank seventh in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. His 8.56 K/9 is only a tick below his career rate. His 2.80 BB/9 is high only by his own lofty standards. The uncharacteristic walk rate stems from some control troubles in his first few starts after returning from elbow soreness. He didn’t walk any Yankees last night and hasn’t allowed a free pass in two of his last four starts.

Granted, Price’s line remained unblemished only because of the heroics of Jackie Bradley, who robbed Aaron Judge of a two-run homer in the sixth inning. Would we view Price in the same positive light if he allowed a pair of runs over 7 1/3 innings instead of eight shutout frames? It would still be a good performance, but not a statement game.

Hopefully Price bought Bradley dinner last night after that outstanding catch. The Red Sox outfield has a habit of making the extraordinary appear routine.  However, Price’s success can’t all be credited to the defense behind him. His 3.81 FIP is only marginally higher than his ERA and just outside of the top 10 qualified AL starters.

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Sunday night’s performance is in stark contract to the last time he faced this Yankees lineup. Price was lit up for six runs over five innings in the Bronx back in early June. Take out that shellacking and his 2.78 ERA over his other nine starts would be among the best in the league. Sure, every pitcher’s ERA would look more appealing if they could get a mulligan on their worst start. The point is, the further Price is removed from that outing in New York, the more he begins to look like the pitcher the Red Sox signed prior to last season.

Even when he has pitched well, the narrative remained that you can’t be the ace of the Red Sox until you beat the Yankees. Price earned a win over New York only once in five chances last year, with the one victory coming in a high-scoring affair where he was roughed up for six runs. Combine that with his brutal outing against them last month and Red Sox fans were beginning to wonder if Price would ever perform against their most hated rival.

Which makes Sunday’s victory that much sweeter. Price showed he’s capable of shutting down one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. What else does he need to prove?

Next: 5 low points of Pablo Sandoval's Red Sox career

Oh, right. Winning a playoff game. We’ll get to that in October, so long as the Red Sox make it to the postseason. With Price returning to form to give the rotation a dominant two-headed monster, Boston is in great shape to retain their division lead.