Price's start best of '19 so far for 1-4 Red Sox

Left-hander goes 6 innings; Boston off to worst start since 2012

April 2nd, 2019

OAKLAND -- At least the Red Sox almost got a good performance from a starting pitcher on Monday night. Considering how low the bar had been set in the first four games, this could be construed as progress in a 7-0 loss to the A's in the opener of a four-game series.

Nonetheless, made a costly mistake in the bottom of the sixth inning -- a misplaced, first-pitch changeup that Chad Pinder put into the seats in left for a two-run homer. With that, the Red Sox completed an unsavory first turn through the rotation in which none of the five starters produced a quality start.

In going 0-for-5, the five starters -- considered to be the strength of the team -- combined to give up 11 homers.

Three of them came against Price in this one -- two of them solo shots to Khris Davis and Ramon Laureano. Overall, Boston’s pitching staff has given up 14 home runs. As the Red Sox slipped to 1-4, Price helped to give the bullpen a break, going six innings, the most by a Sox starter this season. The four runs he allowed was also better than his four rotation mates. And he struck out nine.

“I just wanted us to win,” Price said. “Any way I can help us do that today, that’s what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t able to do that. I’ll be ready to pitch again in five days.”

Price had the Red Sox in it, trailing 2-0 going into the bottom of the sixth. His big regret wasn’t the changeup that Pinder smashed, but the two-out walk before that to Mark Canha.

“Yeah, felt like I threw the ball pretty good for the most part. Made a couple mistakes, and they made me pay for them,” Price said. “If I don’t have that two-out walk there in the sixth inning, it could be different.”

What was the same was the result – another loss for the Red Sox. The bright spot for manager Alex Cora is that he only needed to get two innings from his bullpen. Tyler Thornburg had a strong seventh, retiring the A’s on 11 pitches. Heath Hembree fell apart after an error by Rafael Devers in the eighth, giving up three runs.

“David was actually good,” Cora said. “On three [mistake] pitches, three homers, but I think velocity was good, just, the changeup to Davis kind of cut into the zone. And obviously, the last one, he hung that one. And Laureano ambushed him the first pitch – but we needed six innings. I know it doesn’t look great. I know they scored four. But at least he gave us a chance to reset the bullpen. It was good to see him compete the way he did.”

But where were the bats?

Aside from the familiar theme of the starter struggling, there was an additional problem for the defending World Series champions on Monday: they didn’t hit. Boston's bats were stifled by A’s right-hander Aaron Brooks, who allowed two hits over six innings while making his first start in the Major Leagues since 2015.

Perhaps the Red Sox were pressing a bit at the plate, given the way the season has started.

“Not much today,” Cora said when asked about the offense. “I think [Brooks] moved the ball all over the strike zone, inside to lefties he had that two-seamer in. Not that much from the offense. A lot of strikeouts. A lot of chasing pitches outside of the zone. Kind of like a little bit of frustration throughout the game.”

The Red Sox nearly broke out in the second when Mitch Moreland knocked a one-out single up the middle. But Laureano fired a throw home, and Xander Bogaerts was ruled out at the plate. It was a close play that probably could have gone either way. After a review, the call stood. Clearly, it was a momentum-destroyer for the Sox, who didn’t get another hit until the seventh and had just four on the night.

“The play at the plate, the kid made an outstanding throw,” Cora said. “I don’t know, the call couldn’t go both ways, I guess. But it seems like we were putting something together and Laureano changed the game with that throw.”

No panic

This is the first time Boston has started a season 1-4 since 2012. However, this is also almost the exact same roster that won the World Series last year. It’s way too early to panic. For perspective, consider that the 1998 Yankees also started 1-4 en route to a 114-48 season.

“There’s no panic in this clubhouse, or in the dugout,” Price said. “Just nothing good is happening right now. We’d rather it happen right now than the last two weeks of September. So, we’ll get through this time and we’ll be better for it.”

“It’s five games like you said,” Cora said. “When you go through stretches like this, it sucks that it’s early in the season, but yeah, we have to pick it up. I mean, yeah, we need to start winning ballgames.”

No matter how you slice it, it is a far cry from last year’s 17-2 start.

“Yeah, it’s been slow,” center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “It’s not good. We don’t like where we’re at right now. We feel like there’s a lot of room to grow, and we have no choice but to learn from it. We’re not playing really good ball right now.”