As the starters struggle...

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As the starters struggle...

So, how was your weekend?

Better than the Red Sox I hope. Then again, Im not sure how it could have been worse.

I think Joe Paternos statue had a better weekend than the Sox.

And of course, you cant talk about Bostons pathetic weekend sweep at the hands of the beat up Blue Jays without mentioning the biggest and most consistent problem currently facing this team.

Aaron Cook.

Its like, come on, man. Its pretty simple. When youre the meat in a weekend sandwich and the two pieces of bread are a pair of stale, past-their-prime, journeyman spot starters, you cant afford to be less than your best. When the team gives you a three-run lead, you cant mess around. You need to lay down the hammer. You need to rip out the hearts and hopes of the opposition and crush them like youre Bartolo Colon sitting on a grape.

Three earned runs over 6.1 innings?

What is this, AA Portland? Were you auditioning for the Spinners?

Ill tell you what, Aaron. If thats the kind of effort you plan on giving for the rest of the season, why dont you just tell us now. Because if thats the Aaron Cook we have to look forward to for the next 10 weeks, then theres nothing to look forward to at all. We might as well go pitch a tent down at Gillette and stare at the field until Training Camp starts.

Annnd . . . Ive played this joke out long enough. Too long, actually. And Im sorry, but I just didnt feel like being the 1000th writerreporteranalystfanhuman being to mention that the Red Sox are screwed unless Jon Lester and Josh Beckett wake the hell up.

At this point, we all know and understand this concept far too well. We watched it play out last September. Its been the major theme of the last three months. Still, after this weekend, the starter hysteria is at an all time high. So are the struggles.

Lester just completed what is, hands down, the worst three-start stretch of his career. Hes never pitched fewer innings (12.1) over three consecutive starts. Hes never given up more runs (21) over three consecutive starts. He now has the fourth worst ERA (5.46) of any American League starter, and the fifth worst WHIP (1.46). Hes given up more runs (79) than any pitcher in baseball.

Meanwhile, Becketts 1-4 in his last eight starts, and while some of those losses might fall into the hard luck category, the overall numbers arent deceiving. Bottom line: Becketts been bad. Maybe not as bad as Lester, but thats not saying much. Johnny Pesky would be an upgrade over No. 31.

But unfortunately, there are no upgrades on the way.

As much as everyone involved or at least the fans and the pitchers themselves might enjoy a trade and a change of scenery, its silly to get our hopes up. Lester and Beckett each have only one start before the trade deadline, and unless they pitch a pair of perfect games, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Sox will get enough in return. It's far more likely that we'll see them suck up it for one more season and say: "Sink or swim, this is who we are."

So, who are they? Well, as of today they're back to .500. They're back in last place. They're about to embark one of the most difficult stretches of the season with nine games in 10 days against the Rangers, Yankees and Tigers.

Who will they be? They'll only be as good as Beckett and Lester allow them to be. This isn't any grand or earth shattering statement. You can go around to almost every city in the majors and assume the same: If a team's No. 1 and 2 starters are awful, said team won't be successful. It's really that easy.

And in a way, that's comforting. For all the problems that Red Sox have had this season, between injuries and drama and poor production from players across the board, at this point, things have been simplified. The bullpen is still in good shape. The line-up is finally coming together and once David Ortiz returns, will be whole for the first time all season. After a little slump, Felix Doubront has settled down. Clay Buchholz is healthy again, has won four of his last six starts, and that doesn't include last Thursday's dominant no decision against Chicago.

Look at this team right now, what's keeping them from success? What's standing between them and baseball's upper echelon?

You know the answer. Or more, the two answers.

You know that nothing is going to change unless something changes with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

That is, unless Aaron Cook finally starts pulling his weight.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."