David Price better, but Red Sox starters keep letting opponents leave the park

John Tomase
April 02, 2019 - 12:58 am

As far as the Red Sox starting staff goes, this qualifies as progress: David Price mostly surrendered solo homers.

Don't misunderstand -- Price eventually allowed a two-run blast that basically clinched Oakland's 7-0 victory. But at least he gave the Red Sox a chance.

He still couldn't stop them from falling to 1-4 on a season that is already unfolding very differently than basically any five-game stretch from last year. But even after allowing three home runs, Price surpassed his rotation-mates simply by reaching the exalted level of "not terrible."

Price paid for two mistakes early -- a hanging changeup that defending AL home run champ Khris Davis launched into orbit, and an elevated fastball that Ramon Laureano treated similarly -- before hanging another changeup in the sixth that Chad Pinder pulled down the left field line for a two-run blast.

After four starts of varying levels of horror, however, the Red Sox will take what Price gave them. He became their first starter to throw a pitch in the sixth inning, and also the first to allow fewer than six runs.

He didn't stop the homer-fest, though, and that's a problem. The quintet of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and Price has allowed 11 home runs already. By comparison, the starters didn't allow their 11th homer until Game 24 last year, and half of them came from fill-in starters Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, as well as E-Rod.

(It should be noted, by the way, that reliever Heath Hembree allowed another homer as part of Oakland's three-run eighth on Monday, giving the Red Sox an AL-worst 15 allowed through their first 5 games.)

Price went six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, striking out nine and walking two. His final walk ended up being a killer, as he lost first baseman Mark Canha on a couple of borderline calls with two outs in the sixth. Pinder then jumped on his first pitch to put things away.

So what are we to make of the rotation after one turn? Manager Alex Cora has bristled at criticisms of the way the starters were babied this spring, noting that no one complained when the approach worked last year.

Cora went easy on his starters in recognition of the load they carried last year, right through pivotal relief appearances in the playoffs. If you're looking for an explanation of early-season diminished velocity and command, don't underestimate the impact of the postseason.

Porcello basically admitted in Los Angeles last October that Red Sox starters were gassed. No one complained, because they were doing what it took to win a title.

They might be paying the price now, however, and while it's too early to panic, it's never too soon to be concerned.

Baseballs are flying out of the park on their watch, and the Red Sox have been powerless to stop it. If they wanted to prove that 2018 is indeed history, this is one way to do it.

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The game might've turned out differently had shortstop Xander Bogaerts not been called out at home on a perfect throw from Laureano in the second. Though replays seemed to show Bogaerts sliding in safely, the out call was upheld on challenge and the Red Sox barely threatened to score thereafter. They were limited to only four hits.