BOSTON -- With a full arsenal of pitches working in harmony, David Price gave the Red Sox their best start of the season so far in Sunday’s masterpiece during a 4-0 win over the Orioles at Fenway Park.
The lefty carved Baltimore up with fastballs, changeups and cutters over seven innings, and made the 1-0 lead his team staked him to in the fourth feel a lot bigger.
“He was great,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “All of his pitches were working. He’s getting quick outs, putting guys away. He stepped up big for us. Obviously, when a guy throws like that, you build off it and that carries momentum.”
The Red Sox (6-10) are quietly building just a little momentum -- at last. After a 2-8 start, the defending World Series champs have won three out of four and four out of six.
“Winning makes everybody feel better, whether you get zero hits or don't have a very good outing,” Price said. “Whenever you win, that feels good in the clubhouse. Today, that’s going to make it feel good in the clubhouse tomorrow morning, so that's big.”
Momentum, as they say, generally starts with the starting pitcher.
And Price helped the Red Sox answer Saturday’s 9-5 loss with thorough dominance on Sunday. Price was crisp in throwing 92 pitches. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out seven.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Price came up big in his first start of the season at Fenway. With a 27-7 record in Boston (as a home player and as a visitor), Price’s .794 win percentage at the ancient yard is second in history behind Smokey Joe Wood among pitchers with at least 20 starts.
In fact, he has won each of his past 10 decisions at Fenway dating back to last season, with the Red Sox going 13-1 over those 14 starts.
“It's a tough place to pitch,” Price. “You've got the Monster right over your shoulder, Pesky Pole, I don't know. I like pitching here. I wouldn't have signed here if I didn't like pitching in this park, that's for sure. It might just make you lock in a little bit more, knowing that a fly ball to left can be a double or a home run, a ball down the right-field line can be a home run.”
Price showed how locked in he was in his final two innings. In both the sixth and the seventh, Price gave up a leadoff double. And on each occasion, the Baltimore runner didn't advance past second.
“I trust the guy,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He knows how maneuver an inning, and he was throwing the ball well. His fastball, his velocity was good, the changeup was great, I didn't think about going to the bullpen that early, he's in great shape, he's healthy and he's a guy that we really trust. I talked to him in the sixth, and it's, 'I'm good, I'm really good,' so we just let him go.”
Of Price’s 92 pitches, 48 were fastballs. He also mixed in 28 changeups, 12 cutters, two curves and two sliders. The Orioles swung and missed 18 times. Price only one start last season where he generated more, also against the Orioles, who whiffed at 21 of his pitches on Aug. 11.
While the Red Sox have struggled as a rotation early in the season, Price (1-1, 3.79 ERA) is the one starter who has kept them in all three games he’s pitched.
Once strong starts become a habit again, the Red Sox should be able to get back to where they are expected -- at or near the top of the American League East.
Price pumped by Tiger
Amid his own strong performance, Price was fired up when he heard that Tiger Woods won the Masters.
“I was downstairs, might've been after bottom five, I believe. I hear a whole lot of cheering outside, and we have delayed TVs now everywhere, so I just kind of asked what happened,” said Price. “I thought somebody ran out on the field, a streaker, and J.T. Watkins, our video guy said Tiger won the Masters. Good job, Tiger. We messed up by not wearing red [jerseys] today. I'm happy he pulled that off.”
Like most of the general public, Price was enthused by the rebirth of a sports legend.
“That's awesome. For him to endure everything he's been through and get on top and win another Masters, we're all pumped for him,” Price said.
Bogaerts provides separator
Clinging to a 1-0 lead from the bottom of the fourth and into the eighth inning, Xander Bogaerts finally allowed the Red Sox to breathe a little.
The shortstop clocked a three-run shot to center off Orioles reliever Josh Lucas. Bogaerts smoked the 85.2-mph slider over the wall in center at an exit velocity of 108.4 mph and a projected distance of 418 feet.
Translation? He got all of it.
“That's why we gave him the money we gave him. He comes up with the big hits,” Price said. “That's what Bogey does. He comes up with a lot of big hits for us.”
Considering that the Red Sox aren’t fully clicking offensively, it was a huge swing.
“We've been looking for that for a while, that breathing room,” Cora said. “It was big, we haven't done that probably the whole season I want to say but it was good to see that.”
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.