Closing Time: David Price stifles Sox en route to Rays win

July 24, 2013 - 6:12 pm

What appeared to be a harmless line drive with one out in the top of the third quickly turned disastrous for the Red Sox. Jonny Gomes made a poor read off the bat of a line drive by Desmond Jennings, failing to come up with it as he dove in place on a single. That defensive misplay was followed by a slew of similar gaffes, starting with a Felix Doubront throwing error on a pick-off attempt allowed him to advance to second, another Doubront mistake in which the pitcher threw home on a safety squeeze (on a play when Jennings did not break from third), Wil Myers blooped a Doubront offering into the outfield for a two-run single and, finally, a double steal positioned the Rays to plate another run in the inning. And that was all Rays starter David Price would need in sailing to a 5-1 victory. The tall southpaw threw a complete game, giving up just five hits and one run. It was Price's fourth win in five starts since returning from the disabled list. Doubront took the tough-luck loss on the night. Still, while he committed some poor plays in the field, his stuff was once again excellent and the left-hander turned in another solid performance for the Sox, going 6 2/3 innings giving up three runs on six hits, while striking out five and walking two. Tampa Bay's victory brought the Rays back within a half-game of the Sox for the AL East lead, with the finale of the four-game series -- and, for now, first place in the division -- at stake. Here's what went wrong and right for the Sox: WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- Price stymied the Sox offense all night. Boston recorded just five hits on the night, two of them coming off the bat of Mike Napoli. The only apparent rally threat came in the bottom of the fifth when Napoli led off the inning with a double. However, Price promptly retired the next three batters by way of the fly out. In the past, Sox hitters have had success in making Price throw a lot of pitches and working him deep into the count. However, Price's relentless strike-throwing (a function of an overpowering fastball with which he could beat his opponents in the strike zone) forced the team into a defensive posture in which the Sox swung early, often and in futile fashion. Napoli's double in the fifth represented the first Sox plate appearance of the night to last as long as five pitches. Price would finish the game with just 97 pitches, the third-most efficient nine-inning complete game against the Sox since 2000, behind only a pair of 93-pitch efforts by Tim Hudson in 2003 and Chien-Ming Wang in 2008. "He was throwing strikes all night long. Up until about the sixth inning he was around 80 percent strikes, which is almost unheard of," manager John Farrell noted admiringly. "Power stuff, stayed out over the middle of the plate, and with the exception of Nap'€™s solo home run, he never gave us a chance to build any kind of an inning. Tip your hat, he pitched one heck of a game against us." -- The Rays were able to run at will on the Red Sox. A double steal in the top of the third in which catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had no chance (Doubront made no effort to hold the runners) led to the third Rays run of the game. Jennings added another steal in the top of the seventh. The Sox have allowed 79 steals this year, most in the majors -- though it's worth noting that their caught stealing percentage of 24 percent is respectable, just slightly below the league average of 26 percent. -- Left-hander Matt Thornton gave up a run on three hits while recording just two outs. He's now given up six hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings since the Red Sox acquired him in a trade. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- Napoli contributed with two more extra-base hits for the Red Sox. He doubled off Price in the fifth and then clubbed a home run in the bottom of the seventh. That is now 11 extra-base hits so far in the month of July for Napoli after he had just two in the month of June. Napoli's home run on Wednesday night was also his third in four games. Prior to Wednesday night's game, manager John Farrell offered this explanation to Napoli's recent power surge, "As basic as you can say it, he's just getting his front foot down earlier than in a stretch where he was a little bit late, causing his swing to be a little bit more long," said Farrell. -- Aside from the three-run third that reflected on poor defense (and poor luck), Doubront was strong once again for the Sox. This was the first time he has given up more than two runs since June 13 against Baltimore, where he also gave up three. Wednesday night broke his career-best stretch of six straight starts with two earned runs or less. All the same, with his sixth quality start in his last seven outings, Doubront has a 2.15 ERA since June 18, and he's worked into the seventh inning in five straight starts. "Once again I thought he had very good stuff," said Farrell. "Going into the seventh inning with three runs allowed is consistent with what he'€™s been doing the last couple months for us."