It is just spring training, but it is tough to not get a tad bit excited about what David Price and the Red Sox did Tuesday night.
The Red Sox lost 6-3, but that’s not the issue.
The issue is this pitching line.
David Price, 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO.
Everyone knows that David Price is the Red Sox No. 1 starting pitcher.
Everyone knows he comes to Boston with a massive contract and a sparkling resume.
Here’s something some people might not know.
Price’s career numbers against the New York Yankees aren’t that great. He’s probably best remembered for giving up Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit, which happened to be a home run.
Price is 13-7 with an ERA of 4.04 against the Yankees, he’s allowed more earned runs to the Bronx Bombers (86) than to any other opponent in his career. If you’re a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays or Detroit Tigers those numbers are a concern, but if you’re a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, those numbers are borderline unacceptable.
To truly be a superstar on the Boston Red Sox, you’ve got to perform at a high level, play on winning teams, and beat the New York Yankees. Price’s resume makes the first two issues seem very likely, but that third one, beating the New York Yankees looms large.
The rivalry has its ups-and-downs, but just like North Carolina fans always want to beat Duke and Michigan fans always want to beat Ohio State, Red Sox fans always want to beat the New York Yankees.
Price has struggled to do so. On the plus side his win-loss record is solid, on the minus side, he hasn’t pitched all that well against the Yanks.
Tuesday night he pitched very well against the Yankees.
Facing a lineup with a fair number of starters, Price was pretty darn nasty.
Six strikeouts over just four innings. Price fanned Alex Rodriguez looking twice. His lone mistake was a bases-empty home run to Aaron Hicks. Price also didn’t walk anyone.
The bad news was that the Red Sox offense looked fairly inept against the historically inconsistent Ivan Nova. Two errors by Rusney Castillo and a weak relief appearance by Robbie Ross played key roles in the 6-3 Red Sox defeat.
Price’s performance was still the big news. During the regular season Price won’t be exiting after four innings. He’ll probably go as deep into the game as possible. If he’s throwing the baseball the way he was Tuesday night, he’s probably on the mound well into the later innings.
Robbie Ross is not going to be the Red Sox primary bullpen option in the 8th and 9th innings. Those responsibilities will fall on the far more capable shoulders of Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel.
Speaking of Kimbrel, he worked an inning of relief on Tuesday, faced three batters and struck out two of them.
Fairly or unfairly, when you’re a Red Sox starting pitcher not all starts are created equal. All regular season starts count, but starts against the Yankees will get more attention, and if Price struggles against the Yankees he will have a hard time getting Red Sox fans to completely embrace him.
If he pitches like he did Tuesday night, he won’t have much to worry about at all.