Boston Red Sox

He's once again a hard and fast Price . . . to great effectiveness

He's once again a hard and fast Price . . . to great effectiveness

BOSTON -- He’s taken a lot of heat, and on Sunday night he continued to bring a lot.

David Price delivered his most memorable start of the season in a 3-0 win over the Yankees, playing the role of stopper as always envisioned.

It was a hard task.

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Per BrooksBaseball.net, 96.3 percent of pitches Price threw in eight shutout innings at Fenway Park were hard pitches: fastball, sinkers or cutters. Before Monday, the highest percentage of hard stuff he had relied on inside of one start since joining the Sox was 86.4 percent -- against the Rangers two starts ago.

Price threw just four curveballs on Sunday, three for strikes. The other 103 pitches he threw were sinkers (77) and cutters (26). The former garnered seven swings and misses, the latter six.

That approach fits in with the season overall, although it was to an extreme. Coming off an elbow injury, Price is, remarkably, averaging more fastball-related pitches -- 79.1 percent of pitches -- than he has in any other year in his career except for 2011, when he sat at 80.1 percent.

 

“He was outstanding. Powerful from start to finish,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “A lot of strikes. Very good command. And it was impressive to see just how he maintained his stuff throughout. You know, fastball to both sides of the plate. I thought he had a really good cutter tonight, particularly with some times when he had some added depth to it.”

 

Now, Price is not throwing the absolute hardest he ever has. In 2010 and 2011, he sat at 95 mph or above on his hard pitches. Price is certainly throwing harder than he was a year ago, at an average of 93.1 mph -- a big leap from the 92.3 mph stuff he was averaging in 2016, the lowest point of his career velocity wise.

But it’s also a matter of attack. Price is relying on his power stuff in a way that resembles the seasons of his youth, to great effectiveness. And likely because everything plays off the fastball, there’s a reason Price is getting more whiffs per swing on not just his hard stuff, but his breaking balls and off-speed stuff too -- when he throws them.

A year ago, 26.9 percent of breaking balls Price threw that were swung at were missed. This year, he’s at 36.4 percent, the most dramatic rise between the three pitch categories. The only year he had more whiffs per swing on his breaking ball was 2012.

Sunday was the 12th time in Price’s career he’s gone at least eight innings and struck out at least eight while allowing no earned runs. (He did it twice last year, both times against the Rays.)

There’s a location element at play here too. Price is grooving fewer pitches middle-middle, per Brooks' count. His curveball’s getting more depth to it this season -- more vertical movement -- as is his cutter.

When the Sox signed Price, perhaps the greatest concern was the possibility a power arm would no longer perform as that. That Price, who turns 32 in August, would lose what’s helped make him so effective. Someday, like every pitcher, his stuff will diminish. This year, he’s had a revival in not only throwing hard, but in a great reliance on those pitches.

Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce AL East magic number to three

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Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce AL East magic number to three

CINCINNATI - Mookie Betts doubled with the bases loaded to tie it in the eighth inning and dashed home from second base on an infield single, rallying the Boston Red Sox to a 5-4 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Reds that moved them closer to the AL East title.

By winning 14 of its last 17 games, Boston has left virtually no opening for the second-place New York Yankees to catch up. The Red Sox, already assured a playoff spot, completed an 8-1 road trip that put them in excellent position to win a second consecutive division crown for the first time in franchise history.

Coupled with New York's 9-5 loss in Toronto, the Red Sox reduced their magic number to three. They lead the Yankees by five games with seven to play.

That means Fenway Park can start preparing for a potential celebration. Boston finishes the regular season at home with three games against Toronto and four vs. Houston.

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A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

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A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem Saturday, pulling the sport into a polarizing protest movement that has been criticized harshly by President Donald Trump.

Before a home game against the Texas Rangers, Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland's dugout, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. The 26-year-old rookie catcher pressed his right hand against his heart, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell's shoulders, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.

"Everybody watches sports and so everybody loves sports, so I felt this was the right thing for me to do personally," Maxwell said.

Maxwell's protest comes after Trump blasted football players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes.

"That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," Trump said of kneeling through the anthem. He added, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired."

Maxwell informed A's manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst of his intention to kneel before Saturday's game. He also held a team meeting in which he addressed questions from teammates. Maxwell did not play in Oakland's 1-0 win.

Canha approached Maxwell after the meeting to offer his support.

"I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that's going on in this country right now," Canha said. "I felt like every fiber in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today."

The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they "respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression" and "pride ourselves on being inclusive."

The league also issued a statement: "Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together."

Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, while his father was stationed there in the Army, but he grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where Trump made his statements at a rally Friday.

"The racism in the South is disgusting," Maxwell said. "It bothers me, and it hits home for me because that's where I'm from. The racism in the South is pretty aggressive, and I dealt with it all the way through my childhood, and my sister went through it. I feel that that's something that needs to be addressed and that needs to be changed."

League executives and star players alike condemned Trump's words on Saturday, and Maxwell predicted on Twitter that athletes would begin kneeling in other sports following "comments like that coming from our president."

A few hours later, he followed through.

"This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!" Maxwell wrote.

Maxwell is decidedly patriotic and comes from a military family. His agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Associated Press that "the Maxwells' love and appreciation for our country is indisputable."

"Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump's response to a number of professional athletes' totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

"Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion."