Jackie Bradley Jr’s Lethal Bat and David Price’s Important Thursday Night Start

David Price pitches in the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 7, 2016 in the Bronx. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Thursday night’s Red Sox game might not be critical as far as winning and losing goes, but it sure is important as far as David Price goes.

For those that haven’t noticed, the 2016 Boston Red Sox appear to be a team that has no problem scoring runs.

In fact since David Price last took the mound and absorbed an 8-2 beating in the Bronx to the hated Yankees, the Red Sox have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 45-16.

Jackie Bradley Jr has had such a good week that he’s gone from a solid number nine hitter, to a guy whose name is all over the american league leader boards.

Over the last week, Bradley is hitting .481 with 5 home runs and 15 runs batted in. For the season Bradley is slashing .322/.367/.610. The .977 ops is ranked 7th in the AL. His 28 runs batted in has him tied for 4th and the .322 average is the 8th best in the American League.

He’s got three home runs and 13 RBI’s since Monday.

Bradley has led an offensive explosion rarely seen by Red Sox fans. The Red Sox have scored 13 or more runs three games in a row. A team that had a reputation for not hitting lefties all that well, has decimated lefty starters two nights in a row. If there weren’t so many new faces on the Red Sox you’d swear this series sweep was a form of payback for a three-game sweep in Oakland back in 2012.

That Red Sox squad had arrived in Oakland a shell of the team they had started the season as. This was not long after a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers had purged the roster of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

The manager was one-and-done Bobby Valentine, and the dates were August 31 through September 2, 2012. Friday night the Red Sox were absolutely clobbered by a final score of 20-2. They dropped Saturday’s game 7-1, Oakland completed the three-game sweep with a 6-2 Sunday win.

The Red Sox lost by a combined score of 33-5. They left town with a 62-73 record.

This week it was Oakland’s turn to absorb a memorable three-game demolition. The Red Sox outscored them 40-15. A mediocre start by Clay Buchholz was barely a factor during Monday’s 14-7 Red Sox win.

Tuesday Sean O’Sullivan made a solid spot start, but he could have been downright bad and it probably wouldn’t have had an impact on the 13-5 final result.

Wednesday night the Red Sox got a good, but not great start out of Rick Porcello. It didn’t matter. The A’s recalled lefty Eric Surkamp from their triple A affiliate to make the Wednesday start. He didn’t make it out of the third inning. Oakland’s bullpen was depleted before the game had started, and it didn’t get any better with four pitchers needed to combine for 5.1 unimpressive innings of relief. When it was all over the Red Sox had won 13-3.

Thursday’s game looms large for the Red Sox, and the reason is simple.

David Price.

Last Saturday he got rocked by the New York Yankees. No big deal except that Price happened to sign a seven-year, $217 million contract last winter and oh-by-the-way, that start was the fourth outing of this young season in which he had allowed five or more earned runs.

Something is, or preferably was wrong with David Price.

Sunday afternoon, prior to the series finale against the Yankees, Dustin Pedroia came to David Price with what he thought was an important discovery.

Pedroia was going some video research on how best to attack left-handed pitchers. Price has been in the American League for more than eight seasons. Considering that Price has been one of the best starting pitchers in the league for most of his career, Pedroia’s career head-to-head stats against him (55 at-bats, .273/.365/.418 1HR, 3RBI, 5 2B, 8 BB) were not bad.

While viewing footage of Price he noticed a slight difference in posture between Price pre-2016 and Price this season. The discrepancy was brought to the attention of Price, manager John Farrell, and pitching coach Carl Willis.

Since then the working theory has been that this discovery will make a difference in Price’s effectiveness.

That’s just a theory, until Thursday night.

The Red Sox would love to keep up the offensive explosion against the Astros. They’d love a win, but perhaps what they’d love most of all would be to get a dominant start out of their assumed ace starting pitcher, David Price.

If Price goes out and looks like the starting pitcher that the Red Sox thought they were getting when they signed him to a seven-year, $217 million contract, then not only does that improve the Red Sox chances of beating the Astros Thursday, it also dramatically improves the team’s fortunes for all of 2016, and beyond.

If not then this Red Sox team might have a legitimate problem. They can’t count on too many six-rbi nights from Jackie Bradley Jr and it might be a bit much to ask the team to score 10 or more runs on a near nightly basis.

They’re going to need better starting pitching, they’re going to need David Price.

About the Author

Ben Shapiro

Red Sox columnist for ESPN New Hampshire. Originally from Western Massachusetts, I currently live in New York City with my wife and dog.

I’ve previously written for Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and MassLive.com

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