Sunday night, Boston Red Sox lefty David Price had his worst start of the 2018 season. Surrendering eight runs and five home runs against the New York Yankees, he failed to deliver in the Red Sox’s rubber match with their arch rival. And if this inconsistency and inability to show up in the big moment continues for Price, he could end up being the piece that holds back Boston’s World Series aspirations.
Price is currently in the third year of a seven-year, $217 million deal. He was signed to be their ace, and continues to fail to live up to expectations or come close to what he once was before signing the contract. Currently owning a 4.28 ERA (which is the worst ERA Price has owned since he became a fixture in starting rotations in 2009) and 1.26 WHIP, he’s been underwhelming, to say the least. He isn’t blowing pitches past anyone, is struggling to find the strike zone, and when he does, is getting rocked.
To make matters worse, he’s immensely struggled versus the Yankees. While his abysmal outing against the Bronx Bombers on Sunday Night Baseball was just one game, it marks the second time this season that he’s been torched by manager Aaron Boone‘s lineup.
Back in an April 11 outing, Price surrendered four runs to the Yankees after just one inning, and he was pulled from the game afterwards. But the lefty’s struggles versus them date back to years beforehand. From 2015-17, he took the hill 12 times, and recorded a 5.68 ERA, allowed the Yankees to hit .315 against him, and he also gave up seven home runs. So far this season, he’s given up six home runs to them.The @RedSox are a true pennant contender this year, but struggling starter David Price could be the downfall for Boston. @RPStratakos explains.Click To Tweet
The Yankees are just one team in the American League, but they just so happen to be going back and forth with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East, and working under the assumption that the team who doesn’t win the division wins the Wild Card game, the Yankees and Red Sox will match up with each other in the American League Wild Card round — hence the worry concerning Price.
Whether it’s mental, they just have his number, or it’s a complete coincidence, Price is not the same starter he is versus 28 other teams when he faces the Yankees, granted the other version of Price isn’t stellar itself. But even if the Red Sox first round opponent isn’t the Yankees, manager Alex Cora has to be concerned about the $217 million lefty.
Whether it be his 2016 postseason outing in Progressive Field against the Cleveland Indians, his three starts with the Toronto Blue Jays the year prior, or any other year, Price has been a liability in the playoffs. He owns a career 5.03 postseason ERA, has been easily rattled, and been knocked out of games early often in such play.
And while Price found success coming out of the bullpen in the 2017 playoffs, it’s a situation that was never supposed to present itself; he’s supposed to be able to start and deliver in a Game 1 or 2. But as the past and present have shown, he’s not that type of pitcher. The alpha-dog ace is no more, and one must wonder whether the Red Sox may be forced to use him in a similar role in the playoffs again this year.
With Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers, among others, in their lineup, the Red Sox have one of the game’s most feared offenses. They also owned the fifth best bullpen ERA going into Wednesday afternoon (3.18), and when you look at the big names in their rotation, Boston should be the most complete team in the AL. Chris Sale is arguably the best lefty in the game behind Clayton Kershaw, Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young Award in 2016, and Drew Pomeranz is a proven commodity. But Porcello and Price have been shaky in the postseason, and Sale has seen a drop in his production towards the end of seasons. Plus, Drew Pomeranz has been unreliable this season, currently owning a 6.81 ERA, and he was hit hard in his Game 2 outing against the Houston Astros in last year’s ALDS; the 25-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez has never made a playoff outing.
The Red Sox have the best record in baseball (59-29), but they also have the highest payroll in baseball, and Price’s contract is a big reason why that’s the case. Sure, Dave Dombrowski is one of the most aggressive executives in the game, but in the three years he’s been with Boston, he’s made a significant move that has clouded the team’s payroll every offseason. And, right now, Price has been his biggest mistake on the job. While the fact that he’s the fourth highest paid player in the game could mean that the Red Sox have to figure things out with the lefty, it’s reached the point where it could be too big of a risk to pitch him in a big moment — which speaks volumes as to how bad the situation has become.
The Yankees aren’t going anywhere, the Astros are the defending World Series Champions, the Cleveland Indians still have one of the best 25-man rosters in Major League Baseball despite their struggles, and the Seattle Mariners have emerged as a legitimate American League threat. Boston can’t walk their way through the playoffs with question marks in their rotation — which starts with Price.
This is the best team the Red Sox have fielded in the Dombrowski era. But the man above’s first and most pricy transaction is becoming the individual who could doom the Red Sox when it matters the most.