After the joy of the win wears off, it occurs to me that the Red Sox just gave up seven runs to the Orioles, their starter failed to make it through the fourth inning (again), and they almost blew it anyway. Again. Not to be a killjoy, as if there was much joy to kill in the first place, but all the same old problems were still there last night. The difference was the offense showed up. The Red Sox are 7-19 this September, but if you take out games in which they scored eight or more runs (like they did last night) the record drops to 3-18. That is how bad the pitching has been. And that's real bad.
The Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound tonight in the last or second to last last game of the regular season. Lester started on opening day so it's fitting, in a superficial sort of way, that he would pitch the 162nd game of the regular season as well. Lester is 0-3 with a 10.54 ERA in his last three starts, but Rob Bradford of WEEI.com feels he's just the guy for the job. We'll see soon enough. I can't say I'm filled to the brim with confidence though. It's more like watching an episode of Mythbusters. "Let's see how this thing blows the heck up." Put on your bushy mustache and your goggles, this could be rough. For their part, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal quotes Terry Francona, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia as saying, more or less, that they're excited and looking forward to today's game. That makes three of us I guess.
Goodness knows the man of the hour wasn't on the pitching staff, though he did work with them. Ryan Lavarnway not only caught his first full game at the big league level, but cracked two homers in the process. The cherry on top was his throwing out a moronic Adam Jones who moronically tried to steal third moronic base. Moron. Sure Jones made it easy for him, but Lavarnway got the job done. Same with his first homer which was a nice meatball over the heart of the plate. Sure, it wasn't the best pitch, but so what? When it travels over the outfield wall we don't complain. But my point was Lavarnway's defense was quite good. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal agrees. In a related story, Lavarnway's two homer outburst makes me wonder if we've seen the last of Jason Varitek in a Red Sox uniform. A platoon of Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia next year would likely be productive and super cheap. With contracts like Crawford and Lackey on the books, you have to get cheap production somewhere.
Craig Calcaterra over at Hardball Talk asks is Terry Francona to blame for this mess? Yesterday at Splice Today I wrote about the same question. Sure, is he is culpable, but only to a certain extent. Do you think Francona should be able to fix the starting pitching and their 7.26 ERA in September (which is 1.30 higher than the next worst team)? I don't see that as realistic. Some people are going to be angry over the team's performance, and those people will likely look for a scapegoat, someone they can blame for the losses. I don't think any of those people work in the Red Sox front office though. Even if the Red Sox don't make the playoffs I would be shocked to see Terry Francona leave unless it's something he decides on his own to do.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks that the Red Sox collapse means GM Theo Epstein won't leave for the Cubs. A silver lining if there ever was one. Theo won't want to quit on a team that fell apart like a '76 Chevette leaving the showroom ("Hi, yeah, I just bought the yellow Chevette. Uh huh... yeah, it's a beautiful color... right. Say, are the doors supposed to be removable?"). So goes the narrative. No matter who it is that mans the head chair at baseball ops on Lansdowne Street next year, they're going to have to be creative. According to Cot's, the Red Sox have $126 million committed to next year's payroll. That's without Ortiz, Papelbon, Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia, Aceves, or Bard.
Over at Baseball Nation, Grant Brisbee makes some jokes at the expense of Red Sox starting pitching. More pertinently he wonders if the Red Sox will still try to trade for a starting pitcher should they end up playing a tie-breaking game in Tampa on Thursday afternoon. I wouldn't doubt it considering the state of the team's pitching (see opening paragraph above). Beckett would be pitching on two days rest after throwing around 110 pitches. Lester is pitching today, and Bedard threw yesterday. Aceves throws every day. After that maybe John Lackey uses his one good start for October now. Maybe Tim Wakefield... well, maybe the offense scores 18 runs again. Brandon Duckworth anyone?
Finally, this is a riot.