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David Price comes up aces in Red Sox win over Mariners

BOSTON -- David Price has been pitching well for the Boston Red Sox for weeks, but to many, he still needed that signature performance to validate his status as the staff ace. That performance came Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Price limited the Seattle Mariners to one run -- a solo home run by Franklin Gutierrez that barely snuck around the foul pole in right -- in a 2-1 win. Price capped the outing with back-to-back shutdown innings, the kind of statement frames that have eluded the left-hander most of the season.

"It was very good. There were two chances for [shutdown innings] today and I was able to do it both times," said Price after snapping a personal three-game losing streak and improving to 8-4 overall. "Even after the single off the wall to [Kyle Seager leading off the seventh]. … That's something I haven't been able to do my last couple of starts and I was able to today."

Two starts ago in San Francisco, Price allowed a tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth to a little-known rookie in a 2-1 loss opposite Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. Six days later against the Baltimore Orioles at home, the Red Sox pulled within 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh before Price served up another solo shot on the first pitch of the eighth in an eventual 3-2 loss.

Even though they came amid otherwise solid starts, those eighth innings kept Red Sox fans waiting for their $217 million man to step up in more dominant fashion. The wait may be over after what transpired Sunday, as Price held the Mariners scoreless after Boston tied it in the sixth and then followed up a tiebreaking shot from Mookie Betts in the seventh with a brilliant eighth.

Facing Ketel Marte, Gutierrez and Robinson Cano -- the top third of a lineup that entered the day second to the Red Sox in scoring in the American League -- Price was perfect, punctuating the frame with back-to-back strikeouts. Cano went down swinging on a 93 mph fastball and Fenway erupted, with a sellout crowd finally witnessing Price being all he can be.

Closer Craig Kimbrel then fanned the side in the ninth and Boston snapped a string of five straight losses in one-run games.

"I think there's some things inside of a game where you're going to have to execute in key moments [to win close games] and it starts on the mound, and David was doing that repeatedly," Boston manager John Farrell said.

Farrell said that he even thought Price had strike three on Gutierrez prior to the home run in the fourth. He also noted his starter's ability to do the job when it counted most.

"The biggest inning, probably, after we take the lead, after Mookie's home run, he goes out against the heart of their order. A very strong eighth inning, turns it over to Kimbrel, who was dominant today. A good series win against a good team."

That's what an ace is supposed to deliver, although a lack of offensive support can cause issues on that end. Price left the mound with one run of support in each of his three straight losses and had no margin for error again on Sunday, although it's not as if the Red Sox didn't have their chances. They had two runners reach in each of the first three innings, but Betts was caught stealing in the first, two were left in scoring position in the second and David Ortiz hit into an inning-ending double play in the third.

Then came the sixth, and one of the more frustrating offensive frames of the season for Boston, which somehow managed to score only one run on three hits and two walks. Hanley Ramirez drove in the run with a grounder that plated Xander Bogaerts from third but then he fell asleep at first base and was picked off in embarrassing fashion.

The latest Ramirez baserunning gaffe left the bases empty with two outs, but the Sox still loaded them up on a walk, a single and then another walk (on 12 pitches to Travis Shaw). Christian Vazquez then rocketed a liner that looked to be a tiebreaker, but it found the glove of Marte at shortstop for the final out.

Ramirez also popped out with Ortiz on second to end the seventh, but Betts' homer to lead off that inning provided Price with what he needed.

"His last few starts, we hadn't done too much behind him, offensively, and today we didn't really either, we just did it when it counted," Betts said. "Anytime someone gives up just one run, we should get a 'W.'"

Price now has eight straight quality starts, the longest run for a Red Sox starter since Jon Lester in 2014. He has a 2.47 ERA in that stretch and 19 strikeouts against zero walks over his past 17 innings. Tim Wakefield in 2005 was the last Boston starter to have three straight outings of at least eight innings before Price accomplished the feat Sunday.

"I think he's just settled into what has been his normal delivery for a number of years," Farrell said. "You look at what he's done over the last eight starts, it's progressively getting better. He's been more efficient with his pitch, not only his pitch mix but the number of pitches thrown. Quality locations throughout, and it's great to see a guy go out and work like he does."

Farrell and others have seen glimpses of that work for several weeks. On Sunday they finally saw the complete package.