BOSTON -- It took less than a month for David Price to get booed at Fenway Park.
Staked to an early four-run lead, Price didn't survive the fourth inning in one of the worst starts of his career. The new Red Sox ace allowed eight earned runs, matching his career high, in a 12-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the finale of a three-game series and a 10-game homestand in which he was knocked around twice in three starts.
Price mowed down the Rays one time through the order, overpowering the worst offense in the American League to the tune of 12 swings-and-misses. But the second time around was a different story. Evan Longoria teed off for a solo homer in the third inning, and Price gave up four hits in the fourth, including Curt Casali's two-run homer and a two-run double by Longoria.
It continued a disturbing trend for Price. Opponents are hitting only .225 (9-for-40) against him on his first 50 pitches of a game compared to .319 (15-for-47) thereafter.
Price allowed five runs in five innings in the Fenway opener on April 11 against the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched better five days later, holding the powerful Toronto Blue Jays to two runs in seven innings.
But against the Rays, he failed to complete four innings for only the eighth time in 217 career starts. At just 3 2/3 innings, it marked his shortest start in almost exactly a year, since he gave up eight runs in 2 1/3 innings last April 22 for the Detroit Tigers against the New York Yankees.
It's worth noting that Price typically has struggled in April. He entered with a career 3.90 ERA in the season's first month, considerably higher than his 3.11 mark overall.
But this April has been particularly rough. In four starts, Price has a 7.06 ERA, hardly what the Red Sox expected when they signed him to a seven-year, $217 million contract, the richest deal ever for a pitcher.
The Sox once again showed a knack for erasing deficits, tying the game in the seventh inning to take Price off the hook for the loss. But the Rays scored the go-ahead run on Steven Souza Jr.'s two-out RBI double in the eighth against reliever William Cuevas, who was making his major league debut. The Rays tacked on three runs in the ninth against Cuevas and fellow rookie Noe Ramirez.
Mookie Betts started the Red Sox's comeback with a two-run homer over everything in left field in the sixth inning to slice the margin to 8-7. In the seventh, manager John Farrell stuck with Travis Shaw against lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno, and Shaw tied the game with an RBI double. Earlier in the season, Farrell was using righty-swinging Chris Young to hit for Shaw against lefties.
Ultimately, though, the Sox fizzled at the most critical times. They left the bases loaded in the seventh inning and came up empty with two on and one out in the eighth.