By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The Red Sox find themselves with a share of first place in the American League East today, as they open a three game set in Kansas City, against a mediocre Royals club. Winners of 7 of their last 10 games since they got their clocks cleaned in back to back losses to the tune of 17-1 against New York at Yankees Stadium, it seems that the team is on a bit of a roll.
So, why doesn’t it feel that way?
The only bright spot on the starting staff remains Chris Sale – who tried to win last Thursday night’s game against the Phillies singlehandedly, driving a double to left field in the 8th inning, just to be stranded at third base after tagging up on a fly to right – the rest of the rotation is black as night, with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s face it, whatever Rick Porcello figured out last year to win an improbable Cy Young award; he has forgotten, and then some. The mess he is bringing to the mound every fifth day looks very much like the crap he was slinging – if not worse – in 2015, in his first year in Boston; which everyone knows went very badly.
He is tied for losses in games started, with the San Francisco Giants Jeff Samardzija – who the further he gets into his baseball career; it looks more and more like he should have stuck with football – with nine, and his 52 earned runs allowed is 5th worst in all of baseball.
The guy dubbed “Porcelblow” two years ago, by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones, has allowed a whopping 124 hits in 92.2 innings pitched; laying waste to the 107 the Orioles Kevin Gausman has allowed in the same number of starts. And you can’t help but think that team president of baseball operations – and the general manager of the Detroit Tigers at the time pretty Ricky was traded to the Sox – has to be saying beneath his breath every time Porcello turns into a puddle on the mound, “This is why I traded your ass in the first place.”
The third member of what was supposed to be one of the most dominant starting staffs in all of baseball – the media loathing David Price – is becoming so out of place in a Red Sox uniform, he is beginning to make it look like his former teammate Carl Crawford thought he was comfortable in Boston.
The rest of the rotation that was projected in spring training now resembles a M-A-S-H unit, with knuckleballer Steven Wright having season-ending knee surgery almost immediately after the start of the year, and Eduardo Rodriguez’s left knee cap playing musical chairs every six months.
The Red Sox projected starters for the series against the Royals starting Monday night is Hector Velázquez – who, in his only start this season for the Sox on May 18th; gave up six runs, on nine hits and three home runs, in five innings against the mighty Oakland A’s – Chris Sale, and TBA for Wednesday night’s finale.
Much like the old Boston Braves’ clubs in the late 1940’s would say, “Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain,” this year’s Sox team might be left with “Sale, some luck and what the f**k!”
If the Red Sox relievers’ arms aren’t already hanging by a thread, they most likely will be by the time the team gets a much-needed day off on Thursday.
More than likely – as their current first place position indicates – the Sox will be able to skate through the pitching problems they are facing now due to the depth of young talent that is on their major-league roster, offensively. However, if anyone thinks, this is sustainable over a full season and into the playoffs, you are just whistling Dixie through an old Confederate graveyard.
Due to the fact that the AL East is turning out to be what everyone thought it was before the season started – that is, not very good – and that their line-up, even without David Ortiz, should be good enough to put up runs against any team it faces; there is little doubt that the Red Sox should be in the playoff hunt, well past the dog days of summer.
Nevertheless, if manager John Farrell continues to lean on the likes of Heath Hembree (32 inning pitched), Matt Barnes (31.2 innings pitched), Joe Kelly (30 innings pitched) and closer Craig Kimbrel (31.2 innings pitched) – who has so far been called upon five times for a two inning close, already exceeding the number of times he did it all of last season (4) – it will be only a matter of time before his bullpen becomes utterly ineffective, due to overuse.
Yes, Dombrowski’s team is tied for first place late in June, but it is August and September that should concern him most. His bullpen acquisitions that he has made the past two years remain broken – Tyler Thornburg went under the knife on Friday to treat his thoracic outlet syndrome, and Carson Smith has been shut down with shoulder soreness on his road back from Tommy John surgery last year – and if he is hanging his hat on pretty Ricky figuring it out, and Price suddenly becoming a beast in Boston; all the power to him.
As Mark Twain once famously said, there are three kinds of lies; lies, damn lies, and statistics. Right now, the biggest lie – unless they figure out their pitching problems – about this Red Sox team is the standings.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at email@example.com.