ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The ERA, though now at its lowest since the first week of the season, is still alarmingly high. So, too, are the hits allowed -- most in the league.
But there is another number regarding David Price that is not so discouraging. To the contrary, it's an indication that Price has contributed in a very real way and, more to the point, that there's reason for optimism as the final quarter of the season unfolds.
Price has pitched 177 2/3 innings this season, the most of any American League starter.
The ability to consume innings is nothing new for Price, who threw 220 1/3 last season and led the American League the year before, 2014, with 248. Unless something unforseen takes place, Price will top 200 innings for the sixth time in seven seasons.
And, at a time of the year when pitchers tend to being running on fumes, exhausted by the heat and the demands of the schedule, Price is actually becoming more of a workhorse. Monday night's eight shutout innings represented the third time in the last six outingts in which he's pitched eight.
Since the beginning of July, in fact, Price has made 10 starts and pitched eight innings five times. Six times, Price pitched seven innings or more . . . and that number would almost certainly have been increased had not rain shortened his previous start in Baltimore last week.
It's the time of year when pitchers need to grind through starts and chew up innings and Price is doing that better than anyone right now.
After six innings last night, he was at 96 pitches and it seemed certain that the seventh inning would be his last. But then Price threw an eight-pitch seventh and was sent back out for the eighth.
When a runner reached with one out, John Farrell came out to check on Price.
"He just asked me how I was,'' recounted Price. "I told him, 'I'm good -- I got this.' ''
And with some help from Andrew Benintendi in left field, he did.
The deeper the season gets, the deeper Price has been going in games.
"That's what I expect every fifth day,'' he said of his ability to get into the seventh or eighth. "That's what I've done for a long time now. That's what I expect to do now that I'm a Red Sox. It hasn't happened as much as I feel like I should have this year, but like I said a couple of weeks ago, good things are going to happen.
"Innings are big for sure.''
As his habit, Price attributed the ability to go deeper into games to improved "execution'' -- perhaps the word he uses more than any other when analyzing his starts, good or bad.
"Making pitches, that's the name of the game,'' said Price. "The games that I've gone deeper in, I've executed a lot better.''
Given the struggles of the Red Sox bullpen of late -- see: Monday's ninth inning, in which Matt Barnes allowed two runs to spoil the shutout bid -- every inning that a starter provides is an inning a reliever doesn't have to worry about.
Just when they need him most, David Price may finally be getting locked in.