Nightmare continues for Sox starters

191542.jpg

Nightmare continues for Sox starters

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Entering Saturdays game against the Yankees, Red Sox pitchers had an American League-worst 6.95 ERA. They did nothing to improve their standing by giving up eight earned runs as the Sox suffered their seventh loss in their first eight games of the season, 9-4.

Clay Buchholz lasted just 3 23 innings, giving up eight hits on five runs (four earned) with three walks and two strikeouts. He also hung a curveball to Yankees No. 9 hitter Russell Martin in the fourth, which Martin deposited into the first row of Monster seats for a three-run home run.

Buchholz (0-2) threw 92 pitches, 55 strikes, including 32 pitches in the fourth inning when he faced seven batters recording two outs.

High pitch count, said manager Terry Francona. Every inning was a lot of work. He tried to come in with fastball off the plate and then when he missed, the next pitch out over the plate. They made some pretty solid contact. Like first pitch to Eric Chavez in the second inning, out over the plate. He bangs it off the wall. When you let them get their arms extended, they really do some damage.

Felt like I had pretty good stuff, Buchholz said. Just a team thats going to make you throw strikes and work the count and thats what they did. I got deep into a couple of counts with a couple of guys and I had to throw strikes. I didn't want to walk everybody. So they put the bat on the ball a couple of situations and that was it.

Including his first start of the season, in Texas, Buchholz has given up five home runs in 10 innings, with a 7.20 ERA.

The ball that I gave up today that was a good strike curve ball, Buchholz said. Martin stayed back on it and got some good wood on it and hit it out. That team, they got a lot of thump in that lineup. Cant pitch around everybody. The last two teams we faced, the Rangers, theres a lot of power in that lineup.

But Buchholz has been no worse than any other Red Sox starter. Combined, the rotation has posted an ERA of 7.46, giving up 34 earned runs (35 total) over 41
innings. The five starters have a cumulative WHIP of 21.22, a 5.49 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio, 4.39 walks-per-nine, and a 1.25 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Ironically, only John Lackey (1-1) has recorded a win. Ironically because he pitched a sloppy game against the Yankees in the home opener Friday and was bailed out by the bullpen for his first win. Lackey is the biggest culprit contributing to the rotations ERA, with a far-too-robust ERA of 15.58. But none have pitched particularly well yet. Only Jon Lester (no decisions in two starts, 3.65 ERA), who went seven scoreless innings against in Cleveland Thursday, has posted a quality start.

I dont mean just today but were walking some people and theres a lot of deep counts, Francona said. All the things that we talk about that we want to do is being done to us right now. Were getting some early exits and were asking a lot of our bullpen, especially early in the season.

Despite the lack of success by the starting pitching, Francona doesnt see his pitchers feeling pressured.

I dont think we go into a game pressing, he said. I think we didnt do well enough today. We got a pretty veteran team. They all certainly want to do well, as I do. But sometimes the other team has something to do with it, too.

Were not even two turns through the rotation. I dont think its been a very good first time-and-a-half through the rotation. I agree with that. I dont think were going to pack it in. We need to try and get better. I agree with that. I think we all feel that way.

With pitching coach Curt Young new to the team and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia still getting familiar with the pitchers, it could be that all parties are still trying to get on the same page.

Thats not why we have high pitch counts, Francona said. Were certainly always trying to learn about people, especially some of the new guys. But its just a matter of executing right now and against a team like this you got to execute very well or theyll make you pay for it.

"I think we have to trust our staff and just go out and do it. Keep pitching," Saltalamacchia said. "Curt's new but he's got great stuff. He's really a student of pitching. He does a great job with scouting reports. There's no reason we should be going through stuff like this."

Buchholz also downplayed that possibility.

I dont think so, he said. When you get in a rhythm throughout the season it might take a little bit longer sometimes than it did the year before or two years before. Getting on the same page with everybody as far as pitcher-catcher, I mean Curts brought in quite a bit of knowledge to us, or to me in general. I dont think it has anything to do with that. Its just a matter of going out there and executing pitches like we did last year.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia (who is 6-for-9 with three runs score and five RBI in the series) was much more succinct in his assessment.

Weve got to pitch better, he said. The Yankees have a great offense. But its tough to give up a lot of runs. Its tough to score 10, you know what I mean?

Josh Beckett will be opposed by New Yorks CC Sabathia Sunday night. This would be as good time as any for the erstwhile ace to be the one to stop the bleeding.

Its a game thats early in the year and theyre all meaningful, Francona said. We never try to downplay them. I dont care who were playing against. Thats why were here. But I would never try to downplay it now or in September or anytime. We want to win them all.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

MORE RED SOX

At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.