Trust me; I’m getting sick of hearing David Price say after almost every start that he has to be better, too.
But if you’re looking for someone to blame after Boston’s 7-2 loss on Tuesday night, Price should not be at the top of your list. He’s on the list, but he’s not at the top. The left-hander gave up a home run on the first pitch of the game to Shin-Soo Choo, and there was this overwhelming feeling of, “Here we go again.” That can’t happen. That’s an entirely different game if Price doesn’t give up that home run on the first pitch.
Price escaped the inning having only allowed two runs, even though the first four batters of the game reached base consecutively. But that was really it. Price settled in, and allowed three earned runs over eight innings, notching his second consecutive start with 10 strikeouts.
It was good, not great. That’s been the story of Price’s season since about mid-May. Good, not great. Solid, not ace-like. But I’m looking at my Twitter feed this morning, and seeing all these Red Sox fans blaming Price for last night’s loss, and that’s just flat out looking for a reason. The Texas Rangers are the best team in the American League. Here’s a list of all the pitchers who have struck out at least 10 Texas Rangers this season: Michael Pineda, David Price. That’s it. That’s one hell of a lineup — fourth in the American League in runs scored — and Price pitched well enough to win.
Here’s where they lost that game, and no, I’m not about to get into Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox stranded FOURTEEN base runners last night. They went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position, and EIGHT of those fourteen runners that they stranded were in scoring position. This one’s on the offense. Let’s face it — the Red Sox can’t win low-scoring games. They haven’t been able to do that all season. They’re 2-18 when they score 3 runs or less. Good teams are much, much better than that.
But let’s talk about Kimbrel, since he’s obviously a big topic of conversation today. The Red Sox are trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth, and John Farrell calls upon his closer to get his team back in the dugout with a one-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth. Was he right or wrong for doing that? Why am I even asking that question? Well, it’s because Kimbrel, this season, has an ERA of 1.45 in save situations and 6.75 in non-save situations. Pretty drastic difference there. Something that Farrell should probably keep in mind, if he doesn’t already.
In that situation, though, who else can you really call upon? Well, you could’ve brought in your setup man, Koji Uehara, but Farrell inexplicably used him the night before in a game that the Red Sox had a five-run lead. So, he’s out. You could use Junichi Tazawa, but he has an ERA of 7.11 over his last 14 appearances, and opponents have a .906 OPS against him over that span, so that doesn’t exactly scream “shutdown inning” to me. You kinda have to go with Kimbrel, who hadn’t pitched since Friday, and was the only pitcher in that Red Sox bullpen who had been on that many days of rest.
I don’t know why Kimbrel can’t pitch in non-save situations this year, because he hasn’t always been that way in his career, but he gave up four earned runs on three hits, one of which was a bomb off the light tower, and he didn’t record an out for the first time in his career, which spans 388 appearances. Can we really blame Farrell for this one? Maybe a little bit. Those save situation versus non-save situation numbers are pretty eye-opening to keep trusting Kimbrel in those situations. But at the same time, if you’re Kimbrel, you need to not just get a fucking out, you need to get all three. I don’t care if it’s not a save situation. It’s a one-run game. You might not be pitching for a save, but you’re pitching for a win when you have the best offense in the league coming to the plate for you in the bottom half.
Unfortunately, this is just another example of how losing Carson Smith has hurt this team. Kimbrel has had to assume the innings that Smith would’ve been used — the non-save situations that are high pressure innings late in games. Kimbrel, essentially, has had to be the closer and his own setup man at times, and he’s failed greatly at the setup man part. Can we blame him for that? A little bit, yeah. Sure, your job is to close out games. You’re a closer. But your job, above all, is to get outs when the manager asks you to get outs, and he hasn’t done a good enough job of doing that, All Star nod or not.
Final score: Rangers 7, Red Sox 2