By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — What kind of mentality should an ace pitcher have? That they’re going to go out and dominate the opponent every fifth day no matter what, right? Sure, you’re going to have off days sometimes and that’s understandable, but you can’t just acknowledge that in the back of your mind and have the fear of failure hanging over you.
David Price is no doubt one of the most talented pitchers in the American League, but at this point, there’s no denying that he can get inside his own head at times. He had a bad outing Tuesday night against the Yankees with a chance to clinch the American League East, surrendering six runs on 12 hits in 6.1 innings, including three home runs. The two-run homer by the Yanks’ Tyler Austin in the bottom of the seventh was the real back-breaker.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Price sounded like a man who put too much pressure on himself to clinch the division and let it get to him.
“I’ve been throwing the baseball well the last couple starts and to have a chance to clinch the division for us here, it’s not acceptable,” Price said about his outing. “If our offense scores me four runs, I feel like I should go out there and be able to win. That hasn’t been the case a lot of the time this year and that wasn’t the case tonight.”
The quote that will make more headlines, however, was what Price said about how he feels overall as he gets ready to pitch in the postseason. In the interest of context and fairness, here’s his full response:
“I’m fine mentally, I’m fine physically. … [I] didn’t do it tonight, but so what? I’ll get them next time. That’s what I’ve said all year and I’ve done a much better job of it in the second half … I’m not going to be great every time out there.”
Of course, that last line is the part of that quote that the media (myself included, admittedly) will pick apart like rapturous vultures. It’s good that Price knows how good he is and has the confidence in himself to bounce back. At the same time, you never want to hear your ace acknowledge that he’s not always going to be great.
As a $217 million pitcher with an elite pedigree, Price should be expected to be great every time. It goes without saying that he will have off days from time to time, as even the very best pitchers in baseball do. It’s just not something you want to hear the pitcher himself straight-up acknowledge in a postgame quote. Imagine if Price said something like that after losing a postseason start. If he pitches like he did against the Yankees Tuesday night in his first postseason outing, will it be OK because, Hey he’s not going to be great EVERY time?
I’d rather Price said things like “I expect to be great every time and I wasn’t great tonight.” He needs to have the mentality that he’s going to dominate the opponent, not that he may have a bad outing and that’s OK. This goes all the way back to his lines last season about a duck flapping its legs. It appears that you may have to deal with more of the same this postseason if Price can’t pitch up to his capabilities.
Price will have off days, yes. Every pitcher does. But he shouldn’t be expecting it. He should expect to be great every time – especially in the playoffs. If this makes me a troll or a hater then so be it, but in the postseason I’m expecting Price to be great. Every time.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.