The Red Sox have gone a tear recently, taking eight out of the last ten games and are finally starting to look like the team that scored an MLB-leading 878 runs last season. If you lived under a rock, you might even assume Big Papi was still occupying the DH spot, as they have absolutely bludgeoned their opponents over that stretch, outscoring them 68 to 33.
Thanks to their recent dominance, they’re finally comfortably above .500 at 29-23 and just a couple of games behind the Yankees for the division lead. In spite of all that, the biggest, and perhaps best news, is that David Price is back on the mound. While he may have taken the loss after giving up a three-run home run in his first game back, there’s a lot riding on Price for Boston, both in this season and those to come.
Given that Price is only in year two of his record-breaking, $217 million, seven-year contract (which contains an opt-out after next season), there was certainly plenty of room for concern when he was culled from the roster early in spring training this year thanks to an elbow issue. There’s a lot of future money committed to Price (no matter how much money Boston has in its coffers) and, if Price falters in the short and long term and doesn’t opt out, we’re going to need to chat. But we’re not there just yet.
While it’s too early to say whether Price will stay healthy, much less what sort of season he is going to have, his very presence on the mound couldn’t have come at a better time. Steven Wright underwent season-ending knee surgery early in May. With a 8.25 ERA and 7.71 FIP this season, he’s looked less like his ace-like self from the first half of 2016, but there’s now a 0% chance that he going to eat any innings for Boston, much less regain his knuckle-chuckin’ form which inspired a slight obsession on my part.
We’re certainly not here to talk gloom and doom, though. Chris Sale (2.77 ERA, 1.91 FIP, 12.69 K/9) is looking every bit the Cy Young candidate that Boston shelled out the hefty prospect package for. While Rick Porcello (4.21 ERA, 3.57 FIP) is having a season more in line with what we had come to expect during his time in Detroit rather than his Cy Young 2016, his ridiculously high .370 BABIP suggests that there will be better things ahead. Eduardo Rodriguez (2.82 ERA, 3.41 FIP) is looking like a more than adequate mid-rotation starter. This is the kind of rotation that can go places, and even a discounted David-Price-like pitcher is the kind of thing that could push it over the top when you can score runs the way Boston has been.
On the doom and gloom front, the lineup is certainly going to miss Dustin Pedroia, who suffered a “severe” wrist injury earlier this week. While Pedroia (.292/.369/.380, 0.7 fWAR), may not have looked like his 2016 self (.318/.376/.449, 5.2 fWAR), he was still a plus contributor thanks to his defensive contributions. In his stead, Boston has activated Pablo Sandoval (.246/.296/.400, -0.2 fWAR) off the DL and will be doing some infield tinkering until Pedroia returns. There are going to be some issues at the bottom of the lineup until Pedroia’s return, but Boston looks like the kind of team that is going to weather that storm.
With the Red Sox offense finally starting to look more like what we expected before the season started, Price doesn’t have to return to Cy Young form to put Boston back in the conversation of the best team in baseball. Sale is looking like the best pitcher in the game (all apologies to the best pitcher in the game), Craig Kimbrel (16.88 K/9!!!!, 0.33 FIP!!!) is looking like the best reliever in baseball and the offense is finally starting to roll, so even a season like Price’s 2016 could give the rotation enough of a push to put Boston back in the conversation of the best teams in baseball and help put them back on track to making one preseason prediction come true. Just don’t pay any attention to the part about Pablo Sandoval winning the World Series MVP just yet, thanks.