Red Sox

Drellich: Price finds playoff redemption, but bullpen needs rotation's help

Drellich: Price finds playoff redemption, but bullpen needs rotation's help

BOSTON — David Price has redemption, or at least his first taste of it, after what he agreed was his best performance in a Red Sox uniform. 

Price’s four shutout innings in relief in Game 3 of the American League Division Series preserved a one-run lead that eventually morphed into a 10-3 win over the Astros, a performance that put Price in the same conversation with Pedro Martinez. Pedro was the last Sox reliever to toss at least that many innings out of the bullpen without allowing a run, back in his famous Game 5 performance in the 1999 DS.

MORE: Drellich's five thoughts from Game 3

As Price continues to dominate, the decision not to try to build him up as a reliever once he came off the disabled list in the regular season looks worse and worse.

"In the world of all hands on deck, today showed why you have that, and he exceeded expectations just being able to bounce back as a former starter," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "If there was any doubt on what players are willing to do or what they can do, today shows you that, what playoff baseball will bring out of you and him. His power attack is the same. These guys pitch us very similarly no matter who is pitching with trying to back us up off the plate. He did a good job of making our guys somewhat uncomfortable with the fastball in. He's got the back-door cutter, the changeup. There's weapons in there for him to attack. So it's what we expected. I think his resiliency and his — he sort of reached back and had a little bit extra on his pitches today that was pretty impressive. We weren't surprised by him."

Now, Price didn’t exactly write a love letter to Red Sox fans in his postgame press conference. It doesn’t seem Price has exactly lost the chip on his shoulder, or his concern for outside perception. And maybe both are essential elements to his performance.

Either way, Price seems to to grasp the bottom line: pitch well, and the rest falls into place. Sunday was an example of how that momentum builds.

“If I throw well out of the bullpen that doesn't mean anything, I got to do this as a starter. I know that, y'all know that, y'all write it and it will be talked about,” Price said Sunday. “I mean, I want to help this team win right now. That's if it's coming out of the pen, I'm going to do it. If it's playing center field, I'll do it. It doesn't matter to me. I want to win. That's why I came here, we just need to keep it going, whatever the team asks me to do, that's what I'm going to do. They know I want to start, they know I want the ball.”

But Price is wrong that pitching out of the bullpen doesn’t mean anything. What he’s done — in addition to helping the Red Sox tremendously — is show people in Boston that he can be a weapon in the postseason. 

Not everyone doubted it. But those who would still suggest he cannot pitch like this as starting pitcher in October have no logical leg to stand on. Price put it best himself.

"I can do this as a starter, too, I just haven't done it yet. Period,” Price said. “Pitching suits me well, and that's what I did. It has nothing to do with relieving or starting, I just threw the ball well today.”

Now, the Red Sox desperately — desperately — need his rotation-mates to do the same. We say rotation-mate purposely, because what Price did Sunday was the equivalent of a start, and better than any actual start the Sox have had this October. 

The Sox can’t turn to Price for much on Monday, if anything. They’d be able to get more out of him Tuesday, if Game 4 is washed out and pushed back a day.

The bullpen needs help from the rotation either way.

The fact Price even had a chance to keep Sunday’s score at 4-3 for four innings was in itself a minor miracle, one courtesy of Mookie Betts. The right fielder’s robbery of Josh Reddick’s three-run home run in the second inning kept a 3-0 game from becoming 6-0.

When you look beyond Price, and how the Red Sox move forward, the formula from Sunday is unsustainable. The 11.70 ERA Sox starters have through their last six division series games — three this year, and three last year — is phenomenally bad, and probably due to level off.

It has to start with Rick Porcello and continue with Chris Sale, the next two Sox starters lined up.

Both Porcello and Sale have their own, albeit very different, redemption stories that can play out here. Porcello had a tough 2017 and a poor postseason outing last year. Sale’s Game 1 was highly disappointing. (He's been, uh, pretty darn good otherwise.)

Price is doing his part, as fans and media clamored for and doubted. Now, the Sox need more of their strength, pitching, to show up from the get-go for Price to have a chance to make an even greater impact in these playoffs. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

The Baseball Show Podcast: J.D. Martinez on pace for monster season

The Baseball Show Podcast: J.D. Martinez on pace for monster season

Lou Merloni and Red Sox insider Evan Drellich debate and discuss some of the week's biggest Red Sox topics, presented by Twin River Casino. . .

0:22 - With a pair of homers on Sunday vs. the Orioles, J.D. Martinez continued his hot streak and is on pace to surpass the team's expectations of him. Lou and Evan discuss Martinez's power to all fields and how his hitting approach has had a positive impact on his teammates.

6:44 - Lou and Evan break down the ugly situations for Carson Smith, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Blake Swihart and discuss what the club can do to deal with the struggles of all three players.

13:40 - Evan and Lou go around the horn and look at a few headlines from around the league: Robinson Cano's 80-game suspension, the Cubs interest in Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia's nearing return to the Red Sox.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

J.D. Martinez's 2 vastly different HRs lead Red Sox past O's

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AP Photo

J.D. Martinez's 2 vastly different HRs lead Red Sox past O's

BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez took plenty of ribbing in the dugout after slicing a short home run inside the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park.

A few innings later, he showed his teammates some serious power.

Martinez hit two vastly different drives for his first multihomer game with Boston, powering Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox to a rare 13-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

It was the most hits Boston has allowed in a shutout since at least 1908, the team said.

Signed to a $110 million, five-year deal as a free agent in February, the 30-year-old Martinez curled his first home run an estimated 324 feet around the right-field foul pole. He hammered his second - projected at 443 feet - to the deepest part of the ballpark, beyond the center-field triangle, for his 15th of the season.

"They were making me laugh," Martinez said, standing in the middle of the clubhouse with a smile on his face. "I said, `I've got to get even for some of the ones I hit in April when it was cold out and I thought I crushed some and they weren't even going anywhere.' They were definitely teasing me, but I'll take it."

When reminded about the distance of his second one, he said: "I let `em know."

Martinez drove in three runs, and Andrew Benintendi had a two-run homer among his three hits as the Red Sox won three of four in the series to improve to 6-1 against Baltimore this season.

Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts is impressed by Martinez's power to the opposite field.

"I don't know if anybody else can do what he does, so that's why he's one of a kind," Betts said. "He can also hit it out of any part of the park, too."

The Orioles got 13 hits but lost for the 15th time in 16 road games and dropped to a major league-worst 4-19 away from Camden Yards. Adam Jones had three of Baltimore's 12 singles.

"It's hard to get 13 hits and not score any runs," manager Buck Showalter said. "It's frustrating."

Rodriguez (4-1) scattered nine hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter in 5 2/3 innings.

Leading 1-0 in the fifth, the Red Sox chased David Hess (1-1) and took charge with four runs. Benintendi hit his shot into the Orioles' bullpen after Jackie Bradley Jr.doubled leading off.

Mitch Moreland doubled before Martinez belted his second homer of the day. His first came in the second inning.

Hess gave up five runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings in his second major league start.

"They definitely make some adjustments quick and you have to be able to adjust just as quick," he said. "That's a lineup that from top to bottom can do damage."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: 1B Chris Davis was out of the lineup because he's been struggling against left-handers, batting only .139 (5 for 36). ... Showalter said Jones exited in the seventh because he was sick.

Red Sox: Manager Alex Cora gave DH-1B Hanley Ramirez, in a 5-for-26 slump with no extra-base hits in his last six games, the day off "to work on a few things and keep him off his feet." ... Cora did the same for shortstop Xander Bogaerts, saying: "I think he only had like one off day since coming back from the DL." Bogaerts was sidelined April 9-27 with an injured left ankle. ... 2B Dustin Pedroia (recovering from offseason left knee surgery) was slated to be the DH in a rehab game at Triple-A Pawtucket.

LIKE AN INFIELDER

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski played a foul ball that sailed into his box behind home plate on the bounce, picking it up from a tabletop in front of him. Next to him was former Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans, who won eight Gold Gloves during his career.

DOUBLE THREAT

Martinez and Betts became the first pair of players in Red Sox history with 15 or more homers in the first 50 games of a season.

GREAT ENDINGS

The Red Sox improved to 14-1 in series finales.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Andrew Cashner (1-5, 4.83 ERA) starts Monday in the opener of a three-game series at the Chicago White Sox.

Red Sox: After an off day, LHP Chris Sale (4-1, 2.29) pitches Tuesday at Tampa Bay. Sale has allowed three or fewer runs in all 10 of his starts.