Trailing the Orioles by 2 ½ games, in third place behind the Toronto Blue Jays and coming off a sweep by the Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox open a crucial 11 game road trip on the west coast against the Angels tonight.

If ever this team has faced a crucial game, this is it. A bad start to this trip could easily mean the end to what started out as a magical season for the Kids from Boston.

A win tonight could reverse the slide and set a positive tone for the rest of the season. Another lackluster performance by David Price could spell the end for the Sox pennant hopes. On the other hand, Price returning to his old form could be the boost the Sox need to get through this next eleven days in good shape.

David Price has been a disappointment to the Red Sox so far. With a 9-7 record and an ERA of 4.51, he doesn’t appear to be earning his $31. million this year.

I have followed David Price’s career closely and felt, when the Red Sox picked him up, that he was the key to success for this team. I saw him pitch several times with Tampa Bay in the Trop and on the road and he was always impressive. Working with Jim Hickey, Tampa’s Pitching Coach, who I happen to think is the best in baseball, Price was one of the best left handers in baseball.

He went to Detroit and Toronto and was nothing less than sensational in both places. Now he’s in Boston and he’s the biggest disappointment so far of all the Red Sox Free Agent signings in recent years, including Carl Crawford.

What’s wrong with Price? Am I the only one that has noticed that, at least for the last two months, almost every hitter that faces Price looks comfortable and confident at the plate. Everybody is taking big hacks at his pitches, even the bottom of the batting order.

Since June 3, he has won two and lost six. On June 3, he went seven innings against Toronto and, even though he got the loss, only gave up two earned runs. On July 10, he went eight innings and beat Tampa Bay, giving up just three runs, and earned one of his two wins. Aside from his other win, against Seattle, on June 19, when he only gave up one run but allowed eight hits, those are probably his two best starts in June and July.

What is different about those two starts? They are the only two starts in that period in which he hit a batter, hitting two at Tampa Bay and one at Toronto. Could it be that David Price is relying too much on his control and fast ball while allowing batters to dig in? Major League hitters will catch up with the fastest pitch if they are comfortable and allowed to dig in.

What would Pedro Martinez do if batters got too comfortable at the plate? He’d take the plate back by making them uncomfortable. Maybe Price needs to take the plate back by showing the hitters that he’s not afraid to come inside. I’ll bet that Jim Hickey would advise Price to loosen them up a bit.

If Price gives them a sign that he is ready to do his part and be the Ace they thought they got for their money, this Red Sox team could very well come home from the west coast still in the race. If not, it could be a long eleven days in LA-LA land and a longer last two months of the season.

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