By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The good news for Red Sox fans is Monday’s 4-3 Patriots Day matinee win means that the Sox hit the road on a hot streak, taking three of four from the fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays, and now sit just a game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the top spot in the American League East. The bad news is, any starter not named Chris Sale is still prone to spotting the opposition’s offense a couple or runs to start the game these days.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright looked just plain wrong in the first inning against a relatively weak Rays lineup. Only hours after the Red Sox starters watched lefty Drew Pomeranz walk the first two batters he faced on Easter Sunday, and surrender three runs in a 35 pitch first inning; they were watching Wright seemingly implode in a similar fashion. However, unlike the unreliable lefty, Wright righted the ship to go six plus innings and get the win.
In fact, other than Sale’s dominant outing – yes, it is early, but that is beginning to become redundant – on Saturday, when he held the Rays to one run on three hits, while striking out 12 in seven innings; the performance of the Red Sox starters over the last couple of turns has given pause to even those who praised the potential of this rotation prior to the season.
The reigning Cy Young award winner has looked average, at best, to start the season. Yes, Friday’s drubbing at the hands of the Rays may have slanted the statistics quite a bit – to the tune of a Clay Buchholz like 7.56 ERA after three starts – but prior to that awful outing, he threw six innings and gave up three runs in each of his first two starts of the season.
Much the way he began his career in Boston in 2015, the man nicknamed “Porcelblow” by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones during that doomed campaign; he has been pitching more like Cy Slapnicka then Cy Young so far in this short season.
While, in reality, had David Price not gone down with an elbow strain in spring training, Porcello realistically would have been seen as the Sox third best starter behind him and Sale. Now, with Price’s season precarious at best – few visits to Tommy John guru Dr. James Andrews end with anything but a future surgery date – Pretty Ricky is being asked to come close to duplicating his career season of a year ago.
Simply said, that may just be asking too much.
In a perfect world, Sale’s addition to the Sox starting staff would have – in theory – pushed everyone else in the rotation down a spot; thus lessening the pressure put on Price and Porcello, both of whom have had a tendency over their careers to buckle a bit under the strain. And while Pretty Ricky’s performance last year was an eyeopener; he once again is trying to pitch to expectations, and we all know how that worked out during his first season in Boston.
As for the enigma that rounds out the Sox rotation, Eduardo Rodriguez, he remains as predictable as spring weather in New England. Unfortunately, the 80 degrees and sunny days are too often over-shadowed by the 50 degrees and dismal drizzle, which seems much better suited for a number five then what some claim could be a one or two someday (Hello Buchholz, again.).
Look, the Red Sox offense – though certainly lacking power to start the season – will likely be good enough to bail out the starting staff, like it did this weekend. However, that is a dangerous way to play in one of the most streaky sport in professional sports – especially when try to square a round bat to a round ball on a consistent basis – so if the Sox hope to do what many predicted they would prior to the season; the starting pitching needs to improve.
Otherwise, Sox fans may be thinking that other than Chris Sale, they have been sold a bill of goods regarding this rotation.