If the once mighty-looking Red Sox look like a fading team these days, it's for good reason.
Since July 25, when they had a 2 ½ game lead, the Sox have lost 4 ½ games total on the Yankees.
The team that spent so much of the season in first place is just 15-17 since the end of interleague play early last month. The Sox impressive record was built on the back of weak NL teams and the sub-.500 AL teams. After splitting a series with the lowly Indians, losing a series to the basement-dweller D-Rays, and losing to a pathetic KC team tonight, the Red Sox will hardly instill fear in anyone.
The Sox have dropped 6 of their last ten games, and were very fortunate to earn victories in the two games that Mark Loretta and David Ortiz won with game-winning hits last week. If not for those clutch performances, the Sox would be 2-8 in that stretch.
Though we're only a week into August, the Sox have gotten off to a rough start, winning just twice since the month began. One of those was Curt Schilling's victory against Tampa on Friday. Though Schilling was strong against the D-Rays, he's had trouble during this stretch as well, as evidenced by his 6.00 ERA over his last three starts.
In fact, the last Boston starter to record a victory besides Schilling was Josh Beckett, way back on July 24. But Beckett sports a 5.00 ERA and was tagged for 7 runs in his last start against the Indians, which included three more home runs against him. Beckett leads all MLB pitchers with 31 homers allowed.
Right now, as it has been for a while, the Red Sox staff is a mess.
Through six games this month, opposing hitters are batting .316 against Red Sox pitchers -- the third worst opponents batting average in the majors after Arizona and Kansas City. The staff's 4.89 ERA for the month is higher only than Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Kansas City.
Is it any wonder?
Jason Johnson, Kason Gabbard, David Wells, David Pauley, Lenny DiNardo, and Kyle Snyder have combined to give the Red Sox a grand total of three wins from the No. 4-5 slots in the rotation, and two of those belong to Snyder. Go figure.
None of this should be any surprise.
Over the last 15 games, the four starters who have taken turns in the four and five spot are winless in six starts (0-4); none of them have pitched beyond the sixth inning, and their combined ERA is 5.35.
As has been a problem in most of his starts, rookie Jon Lester lasted just five innings again tonight, in which threw 105 pitches, allowing four runs, six hits, three walks and a hit batter. Outings like these have put excessive strain on a bullpen that has not responded.
The Sox pen hasn't been able to bail out the starters with any consistency. They've given up too many hits and runs, and haven't been able to keep the team in games often enough.
There's plenty of blame to go around. Craig Hansen has a 6.75 ERA in seven appearances, and has been scored upon in four of his last five. In 25.2 innings this year, Hansen has given up 30 hits, including 2 homers, and has just 21 Ks. Not good enough.
Manny Delcarmen is 12.60 ERA in six appearances, and was scored upon in four. And since returning from the DL, the once reliable Mike Timlin has been something other than his former self. In his last six appearances he has a 9.53 ERA, and has allowed an alarming 4 home runs in just 5 2/3 innings. Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez.... need I say more? The pen can no longer be trusted.
Next week, the Sox begin an 11-game stretch against the Tigers, Yankees, and Angels -- consecutive series that could end their pennant hopes once and for all.
If they don't turn it around by then, their season could be lost. What a shame that would be.
Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.