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Rivera: Price still not the pitcher Red Sox signed

David Price shut down Cleveland's order in Thursday's win. (Photo by the Associated Press)

Sometimes it seems as though David Price can’t say anything to help his image. And what he said after Thursday’s 7-0 win over the Cleveland Indians is yet another perfect example of Price hurting his own cause.

First thing’s first. Let’s give him the credit he deserves for putting together a dominant pitching performance, this time against one of the (few) contenders in the American League. All likelihood points to the Indians being a team the Red Sox will have to get past in order to reach the World Series. Price pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just three hits against one of the more potent and tested batting orders in the A.L. So kudos to Price for that.

After the game, however, Price went back to being the unlikeable character we’ve all come to know and dislike. He decided his winning performance was enough for him to say, “this is the pitcher the Red Sox signed.”

I, on the other hand, disagree.

When Dave Dombrowski brought Price to Boston on a 7-year, $217 million contract the goal was to sign a pitcher who could carry the Red Sox through a postseason stretch and win games against the muscle of the A.L. Thursday’s win over Cleveland wasn’t the first time Price has showed us a glimpse of the potential to be that pitcher but that’s the problem- he’s only given us glimpses.

Price has been nothing short of phenomenal during the month of August. In four starts, all wins, Price has allowed just four earned runs and one home run in 27 innings. That’s pretty darn good. But then there’s the version of Price that leaves a game against the New York Yankees because his fingers are cold or the version that hits three batters in one inning against the last-place Kansas City Royals. When you sign for $217 million, you have to be as close to a guaranteed win as it gets regardless of the opponent or the circumstances. If it’s a cold night in April against the Yankees, you gut it out because you’re paid to pitch like an ace.

If the Red Sox are going to win the World Series, Price is going to have to deliver on what Dombrowski envisioned when he signed him. We thought Alex Cora would be able to pencil in Chris Sale for seven stellar innings of work in Game 1 of any playoff series but injuries have placed question marks around that. I still think Sale’s going to be fine but I’m a little less sure about it now than I was a month ago. If Sale isn’t 100 percent healthy when October rolls around, Price is going to have to step into the role of the ace. Even if Sale is 100 percent healthy in the postseason, Price is going to have to be at his best to win Game 2. He’s at his best now but we all know there’s a difference between baseball in August and baseball in October. The Red Sox proved that in 2016 and 2017 when they played great baseball in August/September and fell flat in October. We’re hoping they stop that trend in 2018.

Maybe my standards are a bit high because I strolled into a decade of sports dominance (thanks to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady) in Boston (I know I’m spoiled) but this isn’t the pitcher the Red Sox dished out $217 million for. Not yet. The Red Sox signed an ace to carry them to, and through, October. Price joined the Red Sox with zero postseason victories as a starter. Two years later, he still has zero postseason victories as a starter. Nothing has changed and until Price delivers in the playoffs, the Red Sox are yet to have the pitcher they signed when they brought Price on board in the 2015 offseason.

For now, it’s just another glimpse of dominance. We’ve seen glimpses from Price. Now we’re looking for the pitcher we thought we signed in 2015- a workhorse with zero fear and proven success in October. Call me when Price fits that description.

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Taking two games from the Indians after losing the first two of the four-game series says a lot about the Red Sox. For one, it looks like this Red Sox team won’t cave in if it falls behind in a five or seven-game playoff series. That hasn’t been the case the past two seasons.

It also shows the Red Sox can compete with the better teams in the A.L., the ones that’ll actually be there in October. Earlier this season they dropped the first two games of a four-game series on the road in Houston and salvaged a split with wins in the final two tilts. They’ll see Houston (Sept. 7-9 at Fenway) and Cleveland (Sept. 21-23 at Cleveland) again next month. Chances are if the Red Sox play their cards right and take two of three in both series, the three-game slate against the Yankees (Sept. 28-30 at Fenway) won’t have any impact on the A.L. East.

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