BALTIMORE -- David Price has said previously -- whether it’s the positioning of the backstop or the feel of the mound -- that he enjoys playing in Baltimore no matter if it’s in a Red Sox jersey or that of another of his previous American League East stops. It’s not hard to imagine why, given his 8-0 record, 2.72 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 12 career games in Charm City entering Friday.
After slogging through his past two starts, it was perfect timing for Price that his next turn in the rotation would take place in a location where he’s found comfort throughout his career.
It was a seemingly ideal situation. Until it wasn’t.
Boston’s most steadfast starter gave up a career-high six runs to the Orioles across just four innings of work in what became an 11-2 loss -- his first at Camden Yards. He was tagged for three- and two-run homers -- both on two-strike counts -- along with a triple that saw Richie Martin round the bags to score thanks to an error from J.D. Martinez.
“Didn’t have very good fastball command,” Price said before pausing. “Didn’t have command of anything, really.”
“It seems like every team that comes to play against us, they are playing extra. They really want to beat us and humiliate us,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts added about the loss. “This definitely is one of the worst. Especially if you talk about from a team standpoint. They’re not one of the leading teams in any category or one of the top teams, they’re last in our division. For them to beat us like they did, they came up playing some good baseball today.”
Price ran into trouble from the start, putting two on for switch-hitter Anthony Santander, whose three-run shot in the first inning was just the second of his career from the right side of the plate. After Martin’s wild trip around the bases, Price allowed another homer in the fourth, this time a two-run shot by Keon Broxton.
Ignoring that one of his more lackluster outings of the year came against the last-place Orioles, Price again ran into a wall in terms of pitch count. Friday marked the third consecutive game in which he failed to reach the sixth inning, and with 88 pitches in just four innings Friday he’s now thrown 300 over his last 14 frames.
“The long at-bats are getting to the pitch count,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We just have to figure out if we can do something else as far as the script and the way we pitch so we can get quick outs.”
“I feel even 1-2-3 innings are 20-pitch innings right now,” Price said.
Pitching with little in the way of run support -- merely a two-run shot from Sam Travis in the second inning, his first homer of the year -- Price saw his ERA balloon from 3.16 to 3.61 over the course of Friday’s affair.
Price has reason to be encouraged, though, because on Saturday the Red Sox will welcome Nathan Eovaldi back from the injured list and hopefully bolster the back end of their shaky bullpen -- tagged for five runs in its own right Friday -- which Cora hopes can trickle into starting pitching stability as well.
With Andrew Cashner owning just one Red Sox outing to his name and each of the team's other starters posting an ERA over four this season, Price has been the guy Boston has counted on in 2019. Despite recent grinds, he’s provided comfort among a rotation that has offered its fair share of frustrating outings this year.
One would assume the location of Friday night’s tilt could have provided Price the chance for a bounce-back evening and an opportunity to reaffirm his place as the steady hand in the rotation.
Instead, the Red Sox were left muttering to themselves after falling to 4-4 out of the All-Star break.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re successful in a certain ballpark or whatever the conditions may be,” Price said. “Losing sucks, and you look forward to when you get back out there five days from now.”