Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price has one final chance to warm up before the ALDS starts, but it may eliminate the Toronto Blue Jays tonight.
Oh, what has changed in a year.
Blue Jays fans had mixed feelings when the Red Sox signed Price to a seven-year contract worth $217 million in the previous offseason. Some fans were upset that, despite the team chemistry and friendships Price had made, he would still be about the bigger money. Some fans were happy to see Price go, with the idea that no man playing only every fifth game is worth that kind of money. Especially one who is 2-7 with a 5.22 ERA in his postseason career, including the 16 runs that Price allowed in four appearances for the Blue Jays last season.
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Now, the former Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star has the opportunity to put the last nail in the Blue Jays’ coffin for the 2016 season. Earning Price’s 18th win would possibly be at the expense of sending the Blue Jays home without any wildcard hopes. While Boston locked up the American League East division some time ago, Toronto is all in tonight to cement their chances, being tied with the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers only 1.5 games back.
If the Blue Jays were to lose the game and the Tigers were to beat the lowly Atlanta Braves this afternoon, Detroit would get to play the Cleveland Indians in a makeup game from earlier in the season. Since the Indians are the A.L. Central division champs and will be preparing to play the Red Sox in the American League Division Series, it’s hard to see Cleveland trying very hard to take out the Tigers on Monday. If the Indians take it easy on Detroit, the Tigers could pull ahead of the Blue Jays and force them out of the wildcard race for good.
Wait, what if Baltimore loses? The Jays own the tiebreaker with the Orioles, but Baltimore is playing the New York Yankees who don’t have as much to play for other than pride. This is the same Orioles team who won 8-1 over the Yankees two days ago, even if they lost 3-7 last night. With the firepower at the plate that the Orioles possess, they could very well jump ahead of the Yankees and force the Blue Jays to beat the Red Sox to keep pace.
A loss might not end the Blue Jays’ season for sure, having them play the Orioles in Camden Yards instead of off the shores of Lake Ontario may spell their doom. Oriole Park has been brutal to the Blue Jays, as they desperately hope to be in front of their own loud and playoff-starved fanbase.
Sep 27, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) takes the ball from Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The 31-year-old lefty went 8-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his last 15 starts. He’s seen the Blue Jays up close and knows their hitters’ tendencies. In both starts against his former team this season, Price threw seven innings apiece, allowing only two earned runs in each matchup.
However, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reported that Red Sox manager John Farrell gave Blue Jays fans some good news: “Price will be limited in the regular season finale against the Blue Jays. What that means isn’t exactly clear, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the AL innings leader pitch something like five innings as opposed to his average of 6.2 per start.”
Jays fans are not crowing with joy just yet though, since the situation still dictates that the Blue Jays start their best pitcher, Aaron Sanchez to try to cancel out Price, “since the game will matter for Toronto. The Blue Jays had hoped that they’d have a playoff spot wrapped up by Sunday, in which case they would have held Sanchez back for the playoffs.”
Since the Blue Jays pitchers have struggled in September, even a one-game playoff seems ominous without having Sanchez to start it.
The price of having to play the Red Sox, the best offensive team in the majors, for the last game of the regular season with them starting Price on the mound is pretty immense. Even with Price only pitching five innings, that’s still more than half of the game for the Blue Jays hitters to struggle. Then, Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel have one final tuneup in the later innings to blank the Blue Jays and, possibly, exile them back to Toronto until next year’s spring training.
Does Price have it in him to do that to his friends of a year ago? Possibly. It may also be possible that a friend or two from the Blue Jays will be wearing Red Sox red next season. If anything, he may be helping the cause by stepping on Toronto’s hopes. That point of view may make Price feel like it would be more of a mercy to end their year now.