Nation STATion: Do the Sox have the pitching?

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Nation STATion: Do the Sox have the pitching?

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Yes, Im well aware of the Red Sox nine hits in three games and two lost series in a row, but before you start lining up on the Zakim Bridge, youre really not concerned about the Sox bats are you?

You know the Sox will get many hits from Jacoby, Pedey, Gonzo, Youk, and Papi and an occasional contribution from ReddickDrew, SaltyTek, ScutaroLowrie, and Crawford. So the offense isnt the issue . . . at least until the postseason.

Theres the phrase that pays: At least until the postseason. Once the postseason begins, Sox (and Yankee) hitters dont get to beat up on weak sisters like the Orioles, Royals, and Twins. In the postseason, the name of the game is pitching. And yes, the Sox have reason to worry.

The performance against the Rays staff gives Red Sox Nation a reason to worry because Tampa has postseason quality pitching. Look at their ERA:

Tampas pitching overall 3.67
Tampas starters 3.56
Tampas bullpen 3.96

Now compare it to the overall ERA of all the postseason contenders:
1. Philadelphia 3.08 (1 in the majors overall)
2. San Francisco 3.14 (2)
3. Atlanta 3.42 (3)
4. Angels 3.50 (5)
5. Yankees 3.57 (6)
6. Milwaukee 3.69 (10)
7. Texas 3.71 (12)
8. White Sox 3.80 (15)
9. St. Louis 3.83 (16)
10. Cleveland 3.88 (17)
11. Red Sox 3.90 (18)
12. Arizona 4.03 (20)
13. Detroit 4.23 (24)

Lets eliminate the NL and look just at the AL contenders:
1. Angels 3.50 (1 in the AL)
2. Yankees 3.57 (2)
3. Texas 3.71 (5)
4. White Sox 3.80 (7)
5. Cleveland 3.88 (8)
6. Red Sox 3.90 (9)
7. Detroit 4.23 (11)

Overall, all the teams in the AL have a 3.97 ERA, in the NL a 3.84 ERA. Overall in the bigs, teams have a 3.90 ERA which makes the Sox average. When you look at just the American League, you dont feel a lot better. These are rankings that are simply not reassuring in the middle of August as we look toward October.

It only looks worse when we focus solely on the ERA of starting pitching.
1. Philadelphia 2.99 (1 in the majors overall)
2. San Francisco 3.28 (2)
3. Angels 3.49 (3)
4. Texas 3.62 (6)
5. Atlanta 3.64 (7)
6. Milwaukee 3.76 (11)
7. Yankees 3.78 (12)
8. St. Louis 3.90 (15)
9. White Sox 3.91 (16)
10. Arizona 4.12 (18)
11. Red Sox 4.13 (19)
12. Detroit 4.18 (20)
13. Cleveland 4.19 (21)

Here are just the AL starters:
1. Angels 3.49 (1 in the AL)
2. Texas 3.62 (3)
3. Yankees 3.78 (6)
4. White Sox 3.91 (7)
5. Red Sox 4.13 (8)
6. Detroit 4.18 (9)
7. Cleveland 4.19 (10)

Overall, all the starters in the AL have a 4.10 ERA, in the NL a 3.98 ERA. In the bigs overall, starters have a 4.04 ERA which makes the Sox starters, by any measure, less than average.

The good news is that the Sox potentially will have to face the Angels or Texas, not both. The bad news is the Sox dont match up well against Texas.

The good news is that the Sox match up really well against the Yankees and so far has owned CC Sabathia, New York's ace. The bad news is that both Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have been pitching better for New York and that significantly improves their rotation.

The good news is that the Sox have to face only one AL Central team. The bad news is no one wants to face Justin Verlander or Justin Masterson and the combination of Mark Buehrle, John Danks, and Phil Humber is just getting better for Chicago.

The real truth is after Beckett and Lester, the Sox starters are only as good as the offensive support they have from the Boston bats and when faced with strong starters, Lackey, Wakefield, and Bedard, are not as good as the opposition.

The bullpen provides Boston with a measure of relief, so to speak. Heres how the contenders rank:
1. San Francisco 2.95 (1 in the majors overall)
2. Atlanta 2.96 (2)
3. Yankees 3.03 (3)
4. Cleveland 3.31 (5)
5. Philadelphia 3.33 (7)
6. Boston 3.44 (12)
7. Angels 3.52 (13)
8. White Sox 3.52 (14)
9. Milwaukee 3.61 (17)
10. St. Louis 3.69 (18)
11. Arizona 3.77 (19)
12. Texas 3.97 (23)
13. Detroit 4.33 (28)

Here are the bullpen rankings just in the AL:
1. Yankees 3.03 (1 in the AL)
2. Cleveland 3.31 (2)
3. Boston 3.44 (4)
4. Angels 3.52 (5)
5. White Sox 3.52 (6)
6. Texas 3.97 (11)
7. Detroit 4.33 (13)

Overall, all the relievers in the AL have a 3.74 ERA, in the NL a 3.59 ERA, and overall in the bigs, relievers have a 3.66 ERA which makes the Sox relievers better than average.

The good news here is that Boston is very strong in the 8th and 9th innings. For the most part, Daniel Bard has been lights out setting up Jonathan Papelbon, and Papelbon has been mixing his slider and fastball more effectively this season, but there is no shortage of scary moments with him. Dan Wheeler has been improving as much as Matt Albers has been fading and I think Wheeler can make some serious contributions in the postseason. Alfredo Aceves gets the Charlie Sheen Award, he is all about winning, and he does it a lot. The rest of the bullpen is a crapshoot, but hopefully the Sox wont have to go that deep.

The bad news is that the Yankee bullpen is more than Mariano Rivera this year. While Rivera has been shaky of late, the rest of the So-Ro-Mo, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson have been outstanding in the 7th and 8th. You really want to get to the Yankee starters.

The other really bad news is the massive improvement that the Rangers made in their pen at the trading deadline, which you really cant yet see reflected in their overall numbers. While the Yankees stood pat, the Sox added Erik Bedard, the Rangers added Mike Adams, who has a 1.12 ERA, and 1.08 with Texas. And they added Koji Uehara, who has a 0.708 WHIP this season.

So were these nine hits against the Rays an indicator of the Sox capabilities in the postseason? Probably not, but there is reason for concern. Granted the Sox were without David Ortiz when facing the Rays and that changes the face of this lineup. But they could be without Big Papi for up to four games in a World Series, including a Game 7, if they get that far.

Theres the key phrase, if they get far. And only then will we see if the Rays were an ill omen for the Sox.

This weekend, you may pooh-pooh this column as the Sox bats will probably come alive against the weak KC pitching staff.

But the stats in todays Nation STATion are not about the Sox hitters, this is all about the Sox pitching which may not be good enough to contain the opposition if the Boston batters are held in check. That question will not be answered in Kansas City or the rest of this regular season. We will see the answer in the postseason and that will determine how far this team goes.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.