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Surprise Pitching

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Wade Miller delivers a pitch in his first appearance as a Boston Red Sox.
After a series with the Seattle Mariners, the Red Sox sit at 18-13 on the season, 2.5 games behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles. Throughout April and into early May, there has only been one real consistency: pitching.

As a team, we are sixth in the American League in ERA at 4.11. Factored into that ERA is a couple of horrible earned run averages by David Wells (4.91 ERA) and Curt Schilling (7.13), who both are on the disabled list for a few weeks. That also includes horrible efforts by Blaine Neal (9.00), who is now gone, and Cla Meredith (81.00), who has just had one bad inning. What I'm trying to say is that for the most part, our pitching has been one of the best in the league.

Through May 8, we've seen some pitchers that have just been dominate for the Red Sox. The best example of that has been Mike Timlin, who seems to get better with age. Timlin has pitched 15.2 innings, amassing a 1.15 ERA as the setup man for the Red Sox. You may expect a drop in his ERA at some point, but he has historically been great in May. Since 2002, his ERA in May is 2.11; his best ERA in any month.

Tim Wakefield, who also seems to be following the Timlin mold of "the older, the better," has a 2.97 ERA entering tonight's game versus the worst offense in the league in Oakland. Surprisingly, that 2.97 ERA is just ranked tenth in the American League, but it does top Sox starting pitchers. It does top some doubters too, because I was one of the skeptics at the beginning of the season who didn't think Wakefield should be in the rotation. Boy. I've been wrong so far, huh?

The other two consistent starters this season, Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo, have also been "on" all season so far. Clement has a 3.35 ERA, and has struck out a team leading 35 batters this season. Arroyo has a 3.18 ERA, and leads the team with a 1.11 WHIP, .07 better than Wakefield who is in second. Clement and Arroyo also lead the team with perfect 4-0 records.

Some stats that may surprise you come from Matt Mantei, a pitcher Theo Epstein signed in the off-season that had a lot of doubt about his health. So far this season, Mantei hasn't missed a game and has a 3.18 ERA out of the pen for the Sox. Mantei is touching 95 on his heater, and he's had games where his curveball isn't even touchable.

Wade Miller, who had his first start as a Red Sox last night, and Jeremi Gonzalez, are recent additions to the staff, but both have pitched very well. Miller pitched better last night than any rehab start prior to the game, and Gonzalez has been fooling hitters consistently in both his starts this year.

With great things, come bad things, though. Alan Embree has been hittable this season, even though he's has moments of greatness. Keith Foulke started the season by giving up game winning home runs and an unthinkable ERA for the stellar closer, but has come back down to earth in his last three appearances, earning three saves. Long relief man, and occasional starter, John Halama has just been average this season with a 4.70 ERA. And last, but not least, is 21-year-old Cla Meredith who has only had one appearance (last night), but did give up three earned runs. We'll give Meredith some more time, shall we?

For the Red Sox to put together a nice winning streak and take the AL East away from the Baltimore Orioles, the great pitching is going to have to continue and they will need to score runs. Maybe some home runs by Kevin Millar? Maybe a raised by average for Manny Ramirez? Whatever it takes, I guess. As long as we don't spoil these great numbers from our pitchers, we may win the East for the first time since 1995.