The Sox are 0-and-5 and the pitching has been plain awful. If this losing streak happened to a first place team in July, we would be upset, but not condemned to the darkest places in our minds. But isn’t that how 0-and-5 feels at this point?
The 2010 San Francisco Giants had a five-game losing streak. The 2009 Yankees had a five-game losing streak. The 2008 Phillies had a five-game losing streak. Five games does not a season make, but it’s almost impossible not to worry especially with such bad pitching throughout the rotation and bullpen.
On opening day, Jon Lester lasted only 5.1 innings while allowing five earned runs, three home runs and recording zero strikeouts. However, slow starts are nothing new for Lester. Lester had a 5.48 ERA in April of 2009 and a 4.71 ERA in April of 2010. He finished 2009 with a 15-and-8 record and 3.45 ERA and finished 2010 with a 19-9 record and 3.25 ERA. He got beat up by an excellent hitting team while struggling to find his command. I’m not worried about Lester one bit.
John Lackey was even worse the next day, allowing nine earned runs in only 3.2 innings pitched. Like Lester, Lackey (pause for alliteration break) couldn’t find his command at all, leaving most of his pitches up in the zone. The Rangers’ lineup is built to crush pitchers how can’t locate, thus the shellacking.
However, if we’re looking for some positives, we can point to the fact that Lackey was able to strike out three in his 3.2 innings as well as get a few swings-and-misses on his fastball, curve and slider. Lackey won’t have this type of poor command all season long. I’m not all that worried about him — actually, I just picked him up in a couple fantasy leagues after he had been dropped, so buy low!
The Texas home run massacre continued in game three of the season as Clay Buchholz, who allowed only nine home runs all of last season, gave up four long balls in 6.1 innings. Like Lester and Lackey (pause for alliteration break), Buchholz was up in the zone too often. He did throw some good sliders, however, generating six swings-and-misses on sliders toward the outer-half of the strike-zone or outside of the strike-zone. Better location will equal better results. I’m not too worried.
On Tuesday, the home run barrage stopped, but mostly because the Sox left Texas for the lesser lineup of the Cleveland Indians. That, however, didn’t change the overall outcome. Josh Beckett allowed three runs in five innings while walking four and throwing 106 pitches. Again, location was an issue. Beckett may have been trying to overthrow his four-seam fastball, leaving it up in the zone too often. When he took a little off by going with the two-seamer, he was able to stay a bit lower in the zone.
More of a question mark than his stuff may be his conditioning. Beckett looks, ummm, thick? Not that he can’t pitch effectively a few pounds over what he should be at, but how does that affect his stamina and ability to stay healthy. I’m sort-of worried.
Yesterday, Dice-K was, unfortunately, the same ole Dice-K. His fastballs continually tailed up and away to lefties (in to righties) and he issued three walks in five innings while striking out only two. Yes, I’m worried.
In this game, however, it was the bullpen that really let the Sox down. Dennys Reyes came in and plunked two batters then walked the next, which forced a pitching change. Then, a weird play with the bases loaded resulted in only one out (Varitek not noticing that Youk stepped on third before throwing home). That led to Dan Wheeler having to face the left-handed hitting Asdrubal Cabrera with two runners on. Wheeler doesn’t do so hot against lefties and that held true in this instance. Cabrera launched a three-run bomb to right.
The Sox pen, which was supposedly upgraded this offseason, now stands with an 8.24 ERA. Granted, it’s waaaaay too early to start looking at reliever ERA’s. For example, Daniel Bard is not going to give up four runs in one outing very often, if even once more in 2011. Small sample size can drive you crazy; Just look away and check back in July.
Of course, pitching is only half the problem. The Sox have a team AVG of .190, the second worst mark in baseball. Again, it’s ONLY five games! At any point in the season Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford could fall into slumps. They just both happen to be slumping at the wrong time together, when all of the attention is focused on how historic an 0-and-5 start is. Take a step back and look at their track records…now exhale. In Crawford’s WORST season of over 550 at-bats, he hit .281/.309/.362 with 55 stolen bases. That was all the way back in 2003, his first full season in the majors.
Writers across the nation are already looking at the historical significance of an 0-and-5 start and they’re not exactly helping to ease Red Sox Nation’s pain, even when trying to stay optimistic. It’s not a hole any team would want to be in, but as I stated earlier, the last three World Series champs have lost five-in-a-row at some point during the season.
The Sox made the payoffs in 2009. Their longest loosing streak? Six games. They made the playoffs in 2008. Their longest loosing streak? Five games. The season is not over.
While history is not exactly on the Red Sox side, it also wasn’t on their side before game four of the 2004 American League Championship series. I think you remember what happened then.