Of all the things that have ailed the Boston Red Sox during their 10-15 June swoon, the pitching staff has caused the most pain.
From the front of the rotation to the back end of the bullpen, Red Sox hurlers have been serving up hits, allowing runs and coughing up leads at an alarming rate. The Red Sox offense, while not producing runs like it did in May, remains a force. Heading into Tuesday night’s game at Tampa Bay, Boston led the majors in team batting average (.288), runs (426) and hits (778).
Eleven times this season, the Red Sox have lost games in which they scored at least five runs. The Colorado Rockies are the only team to have lost more games when scoring at least five.
Heading into Tuesday, Red Sox starters had thrown just 15 innings and allowed 28 runs (21 earned) in their previous four games, including an absolute stinker by ace David Price, who got torched for six runs and 12 hits in 2 1-3 innings against Texas on Friday.
Red Sox Nation’s favorite punching bag, Clay Buchholz, gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings in Sunday’s loss to Texas, and that just might be the best effort by a starter over that span.
In many ways, Price’s outing in the Lone Star State was even worse than the horror show that was Eduardo Rodriguez’s meltdown in Tampa Bay Monday. Rodriguez gave up nine runs and 11 hits in 2 2-3 innings before Red Sox manager John Farrell mercifully called for a ceasefire.
Heading into spring training, Rodriguez was being hailed as the No. 2 man in the rotation. Who knew it would be on the PawSox staff?
Where would the Red Sox be in the standings if Rick Porcello (8-2, 3.86 ERA heading into Tuesday) and Steven Wright (8-5, 2.18 ERA) hadn’t stepped up as starters? Even with Porcello and Wright pitching in at a higher rate than expected, Boston was 19th in the big leagues in team ERA at 4.39 after Monday’s games.
The bullpen has been almost as bad, with Koji Uehara getting lit up for 11 runs and six homers in his last 14 innings. Even closer Craig Kimbrel has been roughed up as of late, with his ERA rising from 1.98 to 2.61 while allowing six hits and three earned runs in 3 2-3 innings over his past three appearances heading into Tuesday.
This is hardly the type of stuff that is going to win the arms race that will ultimately determine who makes the American League’s playoff cut. On June 1 the Red Sox were in first place in the AL East with a three-game lead over the second-place Orioles. But Baltimore (45-30 as of Monday) had slugged its way to a 4.5-game lead over the Red Sox after Monday’s games.
Unless the Red Sox snap out of this funk, and this reversal of fortune must start on the mound, there’s no telling whether Farrell will still be filling out the lineup card when the New England Patriots open training camp on July 28. Should the Red Sox ever find themselves eight games or more out of first place, would Farrell survive?
Sure, the Red Sox need another starting pitcher and more arms in the bullpen. What contending team doesn’t? But until President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski can operate a deal that brings in some much-needed reinforcements for the pitching staff, Farrell will have to find a way to win games with the pitchers on the current staff.
Remember, Farrell is a former big-league pitcher who made a name for himself as the Red Sox pitching coach on former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona’s staff prior to being hired as the Toronto Blue Jays manager. So why can’t Farrell instruct Buchholz, Rodriguez and Uehara on ways to get big-league hitters out?
The sky-is-falling mentality is beginning to creep into the Red Sox mindset. Why else would Dustin Pedroia chew out Rodriguez on the mound and Farrell call for a team meeting after Monday’s loss to Tampa Bay?
The goodwill Farrell built up for managing the Red Sox to the 2013 World Series title has all but evaporated. Back-to-back last place finishes in the AL East will do that.
It’s time for Boston’s pitchers to once again become a mound of trouble for opposing hitters. If not, Farrell and the Red Sox are headed for big trouble.