Welcome to the penthouse, my former outhouse colleagues. The air is fresher, the bar is better stocked, and “the women all have long legs and brains”. (Ron Shelton, Bull Durham.)
Dogs are sleeping with cats, Rush Limbaugh has a woody for Hillary and the last place Red Sox are 50 – 34. The good guys are owners of the best record in the AL, perched atop the Eastern Division, with Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester a combined 17 -4. What’s more, Papi, Ellsbury and the Muddy Chicken are back from injuries and rocking classic offensive stats.
Of course, the closer role is an unmitigated train wreck. Ryan Hanrahan, the closer designate, is out for the year, just as last year’s designate, Andrew Bailey, was lost for that season. But the Sox have found the bullpen to be just good enough in 2013 if they re-designate as they go, from Hanrahan to Bailey to Uehara.
(Did you know that Uehara was traded by Baltimore to Texas for Tommy Hunter AND home run basher Chris Davis in 2011? Can you say Bronson Arroyo for Willy Mo Pena ?)
With big Sox stars raking it and new role players like Iglesias, Victorino and Gomes adding mojo to the effort, with 50 wins and the top spot…..I SHOULD FEEL GOOD !
But I don’t.
Our Sox are riding the coat tails of an 18-8 April and a 5-1 record that closed out June. Factor out the 5 excellent weeks of play and the Sox are 27 – 25.
You can sense there is a vulnerable underbelly. And it isn’t the offense.
Through 84 games, the Sox have scored just (11) eleven runs more than the hapless Valentine Men of last year.
What has been different then is the starting pitching. It has made all the difference.
In April, the month of all wonderful pitching months, Sox hurlers started 26 games and delivered 15 quality starts, plus 8 more quality-cusp starts in which they yielded 3, 2, 1, or 0 runs and went 5 to 5 2/3 IP.
Rounded for simplicity, the Sox starters gave million dollar performances in 23 of 26 starts. With a 3.22 ERA. It’s amazing that the Sox managed to lose 8 times.
We are only as good as our starting pitching and once that factor is proficient, we are only as championship viable as our bullpen.
The 1969 Mets batted just .242, had only one starter who hit .300 and one who hit more than 14 home runs. 9 other NL teams scored more than Hodges boys that year. The Orioles, champs of the AL, scored 132 more runs in the regular season than the Mets, but superior pitching triumphed in the 1969 World Series.
And it always will. Which is what has me worried. Buchholz hasn’t pitched since June 8. Lester hasn’t pitched well since June 6. Lackey has been far better than his 5-5 record indicates. But the Sox won’t make the post-season with a rotation of Doubront, Webster, Dempster, Lackey and Lester.
The Orioles have a ton of offense, a brilliant manager and underdog mojo. The Blue Jays are fully capable of blowing by everyone if they keep their pitching going.
First place feels great.
But we are just 3 laps into a 6 lap race.
Bring us more pitching. Bring us a starter, a swing and a closer backup. Bring back a healthy Buchholz.
Bring it now, Mr. Cherrington.