Monday night September 12, 2016. The biggest start of David Price’s Red Sox career.
It really is, and not just because the visiting Baltimore Orioles are in town having won two in a row and six of the last ten to climb into a second place tie with the Toronto Blue Jays, just two games back from the first place Red Sox.
That’s a big part of it, but there’s another part of it too.
Not only does Price have to be good on Monday night, he’s got to be durable as well.
Sunday afternoon the Red Sox used eight relief pitchers to navigate six very difficult innings of work against the Toronto Blue Jays en route to a big 11-8 road win.
Can the Red Sox use any of their relief pitchers on back-to-back days? Yes, they can use a bunch of them, and if it becomes an absolute necessity they’ll not hesitate to do so. It sure would be nice if the bullpen was for the most part, not needed.
There’s questions about how effective some of those relievers can be. Then there’s Tuesday night’s game when Price won’t start, and odds are the Red Sox will need to call upon the relief corps to pitch several innings.
Matt Barnes pitched on Saturday, and made a brief but critical appearance in Sunday’s game, so an appearance on Monday night would be his third straight game of use.
Price as all Red Sox fans know, was signed last offseason to a franchise record, seven-year, $217 million contract. He was paid “ace” money, and Monday night he needs to be an ace starting pitcher. He doesn’t just need to dominate an Orioles lineup that features MVP candidate Manny Machado and major league home run leader Mark Trumbo, he needs to do so for at least six, and ideally seven or eight innings.
Price takes the mound with a record of 15-8 and an ERA of 3.87. His 201 strikeouts place him fifth in the American League. His debut season with the Red Sox has been an up-and-down affair. He got off to an awful start, and hit the All-Star break with an ERA of 4.34. His first half featured a number of truly bad outings. Six times he allowed four or more earned runs. At one point he allowed a home run in ten consecutive outings.
Since the break, Price has looked a lot more like the guy who the Red Sox thought they had signed to that $217 million contract last December. He’s 6-2 with an ERA of 3.07. In 9 of his 11 post All-Star break starts he’s held opponents to less than four earned runs, and he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five starts.
Price need not go the full nine on Monday night, but the Red Sox can’t afford to use their bullpen in the same type of manner they did Sunday. He needs to be good, and prevent that potent and powerful Orioles lineup from taking him deep.
Price has made three starts against the Orioles this season, he’s 1-1 with an ERA of 4.26. Back in April the Orioles lit-up Price for five earned runs over just five innings or work.
It isn’t all on Price, the Red Sox need to score runs. This team can’t afford to be have their league-best offense shut-down by the likes of Wade Miley. The former Red Sox starter will take the mound Monday night with an ERA of 5.49. Since the All-Star break Miley has been particularly bad, sporting an abysmal ERA of 7.15.
The lineup needs to score runs early. Price needs to be both effective and efficient, give the Red Sox relief pitchers some needed rest, and then win yet another in what appears to be a month-long procession of very important inter-divisional match-ups.
The Red Sox got David Price to be an “ace,” Monday night they need that ace on the mound.