Sox welcome Price back with oodles of runs

May 20th, 2019

TORONTO -- was back in his comfort zone Monday afternoon at Rogers Centre as he returned from the injured list to throw five strong innings and earn a 12-2 victory over the Blue Jays.

Price threw just 67 pitches, allowing two unearned runs on three hits while striking out four. He threw 20 pitches to get through the first frame, but he settled into a nice groove in the middle innings and forced plenty of weak contact to get Boston’s hot lineup back to the plate quickly.

“I felt better as the game went on,” Price said. “The last couple innings were more efficient than the first two or three, so it was good.”

Rogers Centre might have been the perfect landing spot for Price’s return, too, as the veteran lefty has dominated in Toronto over his stops with the Rays, Blue Jays and now Red Sox. Monday’s win improved his career record at Rogers Centre to 13-1 (3.17 ERA) and his career record against the Blue Jays to 22-3 (2.37 ERA).

“The pitch count was low and the effort was great,” said Boston manager Alex Cora after the game. “The last two innings, velocity wise and location wise, were fun to watch. He’ll be ready for his next one, but it was cool to have him back.”

As the Red Sox racked up a collection of high-exit velocity, loud base hits early in the game, the Blue Jays chipped away at Price with softer blows. A pair of first-inning hits off Price both left the bat with exit velocities less than 70 mph, including a leadoff single from that Price nearly snagged.

In the second inning, reached base on a fielding error by at second base before finally barreled up Price for a two-run home run to left field. Neither run counted as earned, though, and it was the only damage against Price.

The peripheral data suggests Price is back to full health as well. His four-seam fastball averaged 92.9 mph on Monday, a tick up from his season average of 92.4 mph. Price also leaned on his cutter more than he typically does, throwing it on 20 of his 67 pitches. Both Price and Cora spoke about his improved velocity as the game went on, but Price wasn’t ready to attribute that to anything in particular.

“I don’t know. I’m 33 and it was a day game,” Price deadpanned.

JBJ breaks homerless drought

has been searching for any type of traction at the plate in 2019, and he might have finally found that in the top of the sixth inning Monday with a two-run home run to left field.

The 29-year-old center fielder -- who entered the series hitting .144 with a .421 OPS -- has earned a reputation as a top-end defender and has a 2018 Gold Glove Award to show for it, but his slow start offensively forced the Red Sox to practice patience.

Over the past three seasons, Bradley has posted home runs totals of 13 (2018), 17 (‘17) and 26 (‘16), with a cumulative OPS of .763 over those seasons, so his '19 numbers to this point are a clear outlier from his career averages. Monday’s home run could be the start of his much-hoped-for turnaround.

The heart of Boston’s lineup in front of Bradley did most of the heavy lifting against Toronto as the No. 3-6 hitters -- , , and Chavis -- combined to go 12-for-23 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

“I was happy that we put in that effort,” Cora said of the afternoon game following a tough series against the Astros over the weekend. “It’s easy to come here after a game like that, after a series like that and have a letdown in a 1 o’clock game and just take things for granted. That wasn’t the case.”

Of the 23 hardest-hit balls on Monday afternoon, 21 belonged to the Red Sox, who seemed to barrel up every ball they put in play.

Devers saved the loudest blow until the ninth inning, when he launched a home run deep into the second deck in right field with an exit velocity of 114.4 mph, which is the third-hardest-hit ball for Boston since Statcast began tracking in 2015.