David Price was the free agent prize of the 2015-16 offseason.
The five time All-Star and 2013 American League Cy Young winner signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox and was instantly anointed the staff ace.
Rather than living up to that hype, Price struggled to maintain consistency throughout the 2016 regular season. He finished the season with his highest regular season earned run average since 2008 and he led the league in hits allowed. There were good starts, and there were flat out bad starts.
In spite of the up-and-down season, the Red Sox won the AL East and made the playoffs. Price was most assuredly a key part of those accomplishments but when you’re being paid $30 million for one year of pitching, the expectations are bit higher than just being good at times.
After all of his subpar starts and all the hand-wringing about his “ace” status and his contract, Friday afternoon in Cleveland Price has a chance for near-full redemption.
The Red Sox will take the field down 1-0 in a best-of-five American League divisional series. A loss Friday would back the team into a corner in which they’d need three straight wins, including a winner-take-all Game 5 back in Cleveland just to advance to the ALCS.
History has shown that the Red Sox can certainly roll off three or even four consecutive postseason wins, regardless of where those games are played. That being said, it would be nice to avoid that circumstance, and that’s where David Price comes into play.
Simply put, the Red Sox need David Price to be an ace on Friday. It is that simple. The Red Sox might score a ton of runs off of Indians’ starter Corey Kluber, but that’s not something they can, or should count on.
David Price needs to take the mound and shutdown the Indians bats. A shutout might be a bit much to ask for, but limiting them to under three earned runs and lasting at least into the sixth and ideally into the seventh inning would seem like a near-nessecity.
Price has struggled in the postseason. He needs to not care about that past. The past is over and done. All that he can control is how he performs today. Yes he’s had bad postseason starts, but most of those starts came against either the Texas Rangers or Boston Red Sox, and he had one more bad one against the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.
There are no Rangers or Royals on the field in Cleveland and he’ll be wearing a Red Sox uniform. Price needs to forget that this is a playoff game and forget that it is almost a must-win game and remember that he’s facing the Cleveland Indians.
Price has made 14 starts against the Indians over the course of his career. He’s 10-2 with an ERA of 2.24 with 100 strikeouts in just 92.1 innings of work. Price might have a rep for giving up home runs, but he’s only allowed five to the Indians over the course of his career.
This is it, this why the Red Sox spent that money on Price, this is what is supposed to separate him from most of the other well-regarded starting pitchers in the sport.
After a tough season in which Price had to endure some real bad stretches, he’d be able to put all of that in the rear view mirror by simply going out and dominating the Cleveland Indians on Friday afternoon.
This is the type of game where he can silence all the critics. Price can etch his name onto the list of Red Sox postseason legends with a dominant performance on Friday.
He needs this game, his team needs this game, this is his time to shine.
The Red Sox and Indians will face-off Friday at 4:30pm ET from Progressive Field in Cleveland Ohio.