BALTIMORE -- On the final putout of his start and to the applause of a strong traveling contingent, David Price jovially clapped his right hand with his glove. Then, a happy handshake with Mitch Moreland and the rest of his infield. A relieved hug with manager Alex Cora awaited him
BALTIMORE -- On the final putout of his start and to the applause of a strong traveling contingent, David Price jovially clapped his right hand with his glove. Then, a happy handshake with Mitch Moreland and the rest of his infield. A relieved hug with manager Alex Cora awaited him in the dugout at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Now more than ever -- in the midst of four games in less than 72 hours and after using seven pitchers Friday -- Cora needed his lefty to provide length. He didn't just get what he asked for. He got more.
In the Red Sox's 5-0 win over the Orioles in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader -- a flip-flop from Friday's 31-run slugfest -- Price allowed just five hits to go along with a season-high 10 strikeouts in six innings. Had he not performed so, Game 2 starter Hector Velazquez could have been used, putting the second start in the hands of the inexperienced William Cuevas.
"He's in a great place right now -- physically, mentally," said Cora, adding he feels Price is a different pitcher from the first half. " ... It's not like he reinvented himself. He's made some minor adjustments, and it's paying off right now."
Instead, Price kept his team well within the plan for Saturday's nightcap and yet another quick turnaround for Sunday. He did so sharing the love of his full arsenal of pitches, with four of his punchouts each on cutters and changeups, and two more on two-seam fastballs.
"He's doing an outstanding job mixing up pitches," Cora said. "His changeup has changed a little bit more -- a lot more, I would say."
The bullpen, too, did its part in limiting exposure, throwing three perfect innings and adding four strikeouts behind its starter.
Meanwhile, some of the usual offensive suspects -- Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez -- combined to go for 2-for-13 with a walk.
"We don't put it on Mookie or J.D. or 'Benny' or [Chris Sale] or [Rick Porcello] or anybody," Price said. "Everybody in this clubhouse on the roster knows that if we need somebody to step up, it can be anybody in this clubhouse. One through nine in the lineup or any five starters or anybody in that bullpen can do that for us. We have a very special group in here, and I think everybody understands that."
Price has picked up the slack for a rotation that will be bolstered by the return of Sale in Sunday's series finale. In his last four starts, Price has allowed just three runs over 26 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.75 in the process.
While the offense bailed out Nathan Eovaldi in his rough outing on Friday, Price didn't need quite as much support in Saturday's matinee.
After struggling for four innings against Jimmy Yacabonis -- making his third career start -- Eduardo Nunez broke the scoreless stalemate with a two-run homer tucked just inside the left-field pole. Jackie Bradley Jr. added a pair of solo shots and Xander Bogaerts continued to heat up with a 3-for-4 performance.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Saturday's matinee didn't feature nearly as many runs as Friday's offensive explosion, but it had some shades. After a 3-for-4 night on Friday, Bradley went deep twice on Saturday to extend the Red Sox's lead over Baltimore. Bradley's OPS is up to .691 -- the highest it has been since April 21.
"Continue to work every single day and try to make adjustments every at-bat and eventually, hopefully, pitch to pitch," Bradley said. "Feel like I've been missing my pitch that I can handle a little too often through the year. It feels good to actually not miss today."
Bogaerts' season may be getting lost in the shuffle next to Betts and Martinez, but his manager knows his contributions, especially recently, have been invaluable. Despite adding three hits on Saturday, Bogaerts has more walks (eight) that hits (seven) in his last six games. During that span, Bogaerts owns a .517 on-base percentage.
"I'm very proud of him. There is a guy I wanted to push and get him back in that conversation of elite shortstops," Cora said. "I don't know if he's in that conversation, but I know we have an elite shortstop."
HE SAID IT
"This is the best team I've been on, for sure. In my first year here, that was an unbelievable team, and I feel like it's continued to get better with the additions that we have and guys stepping up and having really good years. This is a good team." -- Price
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver.