After enjoying a brief four days off while All-Star festivities were taking place in Washington D.C., the Red Sox were back at it on Friday night to take on a below average Tigers team in Detroit, Michigan.
As a unit, Boston was essentially firing on all units heading into the break, as they entered last night winners of six of their last seven games, so it was going to be interesting to see how they would respond after nearly a week of no baseball.
Making his 20th start of the season and coming off an outing in which he held the Toronto Blue Jays to three runs in nearly seven innings back on July 12th, David Price was once again matched up against a former team of his on Friday.
For Price, it really was a tale of two halves in this start. Through the first three innings, the lefty was perfect. Nine up, nine down, with the ninth out coming on this fantastic catch from JD Martinez in right field.
Couldn’t ask for much better there, but things got shaky for Price when the Tigers lineup got their second look at him starting in the fourth.
Back-to-back leadoff singles from Tigers infielders Niko Goodrum and Jeimer Candelario followed by an infield single off the bat of Nick Castellanos that deflected off of Price’s glove put the Tennessee native in his first jam of the night.
With the bases loaded for Detroit, Price managed to get out of the stressful situation by retiring the next three batters he faced, but it came at a cost.
Yes, as Andrew Benintendi caught a fly ball off the bat of John Hicks for the first out of the frame, an awry throw back into the infield to prevent the runner on third from tagging up created some confusion.
While it appeared Candelario was caught in a rundown between second and third, Brock Holt ended up being the recipient of a cleat to the right knee, as Candelario got him with his spike as he was sliding back into second with Holt covering the bag.
Replaced by Tzu-Wei Lin, Holt was later diagnosed with a right knee contusion, so it does not look like the Red Sox utility man will miss any significant time.
Anyway, Price somehow managed to escape that inning without getting seriously roughed up by a team that struggles to score runs, and went on to retire seven of the last 10 batters he faced.
After getting the first out of the seventh and hitting Leonys Martin with a pitch, the 32 year-old hurler was replaced in favor of Heath Hembree.
Finishing with 96 pitches (65 strikes) on the night, Price relied on his cutter the most, as he went to it approximately 32% of the time on Friday while also topping out at 94.4 MPH with it in the fifth inning.
At 11-6 on the season now, Price will look to build on what was no doubt his best start of July in his next time out, which should come against the Baltimore Orioles next Wednesday.
In relief of Price, the aforementioned Heath Hembree was inserted into this game with a runner on first and one out in the bottom half of the seventh. He needed just seven pitches to strike out the only two batters he faced to send this thing to the eighth.
Seemingly taking the main set up man role from Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes got the call for the eighth inning, and like he has done so much as of late, shut the door on the opposition.
It certainly was not an easy task, as the UCONN product struck out the first two batters he faced, but could only get one actual out due to two wild pitches on both strike threes.
Despite that, Barnes escaped the inning without surrendering a run and with the help of perhaps his best curveball of the season, picked up his 20th hold.
Finally, in the ninth, after not appearing in his seventh All-Star Game this past Tuesday, Craig Kimbrel came in, allowed the tying run to reach base with one out, retired the next two batters he faced, and picked up his 31st save of the season to ensure the 1-0 win.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup could not do much against a mediocre Tigers pitching staff, but luckily, they did not need to.
Facing off against lefty Matthew Boyd for Detroit, who in his only other start against Boston this season surrendered two earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched back on June 7th, the Red Sox could only manage one run on the entire night.
That lone run came in the top of the first, when with one out and runners on first and second, Steve Pearce came through with a line drive RBI double to left field, scoring Andrew Benintendi from second and making it a 1-0 game.
Other than that, the team certainly had other opportunities to tack some insurance runs on the board, like in the sixth and seventh innings, but could only strand runners in scoring position in what turned out to be a very tight win.
Some notes from this win:
The Red Sox have a nice 69-30 record and own a 5.5 game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East.
The Red Sox are 11-2 in David Price’s last 13 starts. Over that span, Price owns a 3.72 ERA and .239 BAA in 77.1 innings pitched.
Since joining the Red Sox on June 29th, Steve Pearce is slashing .433/.500/.700 with one home run and six RBI in 11 games played.
In his last 10 appearances, Matt Barnes has surrendered just one run in 10.1 innings pitched while holding opponents to a .419 OPS.
With game number 100 on deck, it will be a starting pitching matchup featuring Brian Johnson for the Red Sox and Mike Fiers for the Tigers. Fiers, a righty, has faced Boston three times in his career and owns a 2.76 ERA in those appearances.
Since rejoining the rotation on June 28th, Johnson has been a stable option in three starts. The lefty owns a 3.38 ERA over that stretch, and the Red Sox are undefeated in those three games.
First pitch of the middle game is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET.