Welcome to Boston, David.
I know what you’re thinking. Why say that, Jesse? Don’t you know David Price has already made five starts at Fenway Park? He even had his own bobblehead night earlier this week (featuring his famous four-legged friend Astro). But come on, that wasn’t the real Price. Aside from an April 16 start when he hurled a seven-inning gem against the Blue Jays, Price has been a catastrophe at home this year.
Price needed a win Thursday to silence the critics, to put a muzzle over the Boston sports radio hosts with their scorching hot takes. He did better than that, delivering arguably his strongest outing as a member of the Red Sox. Price held Houston to six hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings while registering 12 strikeouts. The left-hander leads the American League in that category with 65.
Dustin Pedroia, observant fellow that he is, found a flaw in Price’s mechanics after his last start Saturday against the Yankees. Price took his first loss of the season in that game while getting blasted for six runs in only 4 2/3 innings.
Whatever Pedroia uncovered must have done the trick because Price was a completely different pitcher on Thursday. It started with his velocity. Price topped out at 93 mph against New York last week while averaging just 91.7 mph on his fastball. He delivered the goods Thursday though, averaging 93.1 mph on his cheese and even reaching back for a 96 mph heater to get Carlos Correa swinging in the fifth inning. Price set down the last eight hitters he faced and 12 of the last 13 before exiting to a well-deserved standing ovation.
If you watched the game on NESN, you were probably deeply saddened because Don Orsillo no longer calls games for the Red Sox, which is an American travesty of the highest degree. But if you did, you also saw Roger Clemens, who made a rare appearance in the Fenway Park press box on Thursday night. The seven-time Cy Young winner was asked about Price’s recent struggles and provided an excellent breakdown of his mechanics.
In previous starts, Price’s shoulder tilt wasn’t as pronounced and his leg kick was much lower. He corrected both of those flaws on Thursday. “David’s right side, that’s his steering wheel,” said Clemens. “He’s going to hide the ball. That’s what makes this ball explode and the hitter to not see the ball until extremely late.” Clemens mentioned that Jake Arrieta employs a similar technique, obscuring the ball from hitters by closing his upper body and tilting his shoulder. Given his recent success, Arrieta might not be a bad guy for Price to model his game after.
Price made some important tweaks to his mechanics Thursday but the fundamentals will only get you so far. At age 30, Price has limitations. He’s not going to sit in the high 90s like he did when he was a Cy Young winner in Tampa Bay. If Price is going to age gracefully, he’ll have to find a new approach. That means throwing fewer fastballs and leaning more on off-speed pitches. This year Price has thrown a higher percentage of changeups and cutters than he has at any point in his career. That doesn’t mean Price is going to become a finesse pitcher overnight or even that he should. But using a more cerebral approach with deception and an emphasis on pitch sequencing can only help as Price enters the second half of his career.
You’ll notice Price already has five wins despite a nightmarish 6.00 ERA. That’s because the Red Sox have given him the 16th-highest run support in MLB (5.75). That trend continued Thursday as Boston tallied 11 runs including eight off reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who is now 2-5 with a 5.58 ERA.
It wasn’t the Astros’ finest hour but at least George Springer got to check something off his bucket list. A Connecticut native, Springer finally played his first game at Fenway Park. He was injured the last two times the Astros visited Fenway including last season when he broke his wrist hours before the team’s flight to Boston. He didn’t make things easy on his parents, who had to choose between seeing George at Fenway or watching their daughter Lena pitch for Ohio State in the Big Ten Softball Tournament (they beat Rutgers 5-0). Springer, who homered against Price in 2014, went 2-for-4 in his Fenway debut with a pair of singles.
Fresh off a dominant sweep of Oakland, the Red Sox have plated 11-plus runs in four consecutive games, a feat that’s been accomplished just four times since 1950. They’ve also homered in 13 straight, their longest streak since 2007.
Jackie Bradley has been especially hot. He upped his hitting streak to 18 games Thursday by going 2-for-4 with an RBI single. That matches Eric Hosmer for the longest streak in MLB this year. JBJ has hit .412 with six homers and 25 RBI during that stretch. The 26-year-old now owns the AL’s sixth-highest batting average at .328 while his RBI total (29) ranks fourth. Not bad for a .230 career hitter who’s mostly known for his glove work.
Despite outscoring their opponents 51-16 over the last four games, the Red Sox haven’t been able to gain any ground on Baltimore. Both teams have won five in a row with Baltimore’s latest victory coming in spectacular fashion. The Orioles staged a wild come-from-behind win over Detroit on Thursday, gashing the Tigers bullpen for five seventh-inning runs. For Detroit, it was a repeat of Sunday’s debacle against Texas when Justin Verlander left with a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning. The two-run cushion evaporated quickly as the Rangers put a seven spot on the board in the eighth to seize the lead for good.
The Orioles and Red Sox are tied atop the American League East, though the Orioles have a higher winning percentage because they’ve played two fewer games than Boston.
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Quick Hits: It only took Chase Headley 91 at-bats to get his first extra-base hit of the season. It came on a solo blast off Ian Kennedy, who was pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the Yankees traded him to Arizona in 2009. Chien-Ming Wang also made his return to Yankee Stadium on Thursday … The Yankees recalled top catching prospect Gary Sanchez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s hard to see him getting much playing time with Brian McCann and Austin Romine ahead of him, though the Yankees have been pretty desperate for offense lately … Ryan Braun extended his hitting streak to 12 games on Thursday. His average has shot up from .338 to .376 during the streak … Scooter Gennett returned to the Brewers lineup Thursday after missing 15 games with a strained oblique. He ripped two hits but the Brewers lost anyway … Derek Norris exited Thursday’s game after getting hit in the left hand by a 95 mph fastball from Jimmy Nelson. He was diagnosed with a contusion after his X-rays came back negative … James Shields probably should have retired after giving up a home run to Bartolo Colon last week. Instead, he returned to the mound and fired seven scoreless innings against Milwaukee. Meanwhile Colon got knocked around in a loss to the Dodgers (5 IP, 7 H, 5 R) … In his scouting report, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Bartolo Colon is a “heavy fastball guy.” I feel like he could have worded that better … Clayton Kershaw twirled a three-hit shutout Thursday against the Mets. He struck out 13 while finishing with a game score of 93. That’s six points higher than Max Scherzer scored Wednesday when he tied the major league record with 20 strikeouts … Matt Holliday left the yard twice in Thursday’s win over the Angels. That was his 21st career multi-homer game … Jered Weaver’s night got off to a promising start Thursday. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced—only to allow nine of the next 10 men to reach. Weaver gave up eight runs in four-plus innings before finally getting the hook … Thursday’s Cardinals/Angels game was briefly interrupted by a cat, who decided to go on the field and run around for a while. Look at that speed. He’s like the Billy Hamilton of cats … Suitors are beginning to emerge in the slow-developing Tim Lincecum sweepstakes. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Lincecum has narrowed his search down to three teams: the White Sox, Angels and Giants. San Francisco, the only team Lincecum has ever played for, is only interested in him as a reliever while the White Sox and Angels are offering him a chance to start. Lincecum said he’d prefer to play on the West Coast … The Tigers recalled outfielder Steven Moya from Triple-A Toledo on Thursday. Moya, who is listed at 6’6/229, wears size 18 cleats … Jonathan Schoop supplied his first career triple on Thursday night. The three-bagger broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning as the Orioles went on to capture a 7-5 win … Odubel Herrera matched a career-high with four hits in Thursday’s win over Atlanta. He’s hit safely in 10 straight games … Zack Greinke hasn’t been very good at pitching this year (3-3, 5.26 ERA) but he’s been excellent at hitting. He doubled off Johnny Cueto Thursday to raise his season average to .333 … The Rotoworld Baseball Podcast is up and running. Here’s the link to Episode 1 with D.J. Short and Drew Silva.