It was a familiar story for Red Sox fans Wednesday afternoon. Just three days ago they had gone for their first sweep of the season, sending Clay Buchholz to the mound against the New York Yankees. Buchholz proceeded to surrender seven runs in the first, ending the game before it could even really get started.
Wednesday it wasn't Clay Buchholz, and it wasn't the first, but Wade Miley replicated the spirit of the thing. He put the Red Sox behind early, allowing tons of hard contact in a two-run first, then buried them completely with a horrible five-run third inning immediately after the offense had recovered those two runs for him (with, once again, plenty of help from the Nationals defense). His slider floated, his fastball was completely out of control, and the Nationals took total advantage. Anthony Varvaro tacked on a run of his own, leaving Boston behind 8-2.
The Red Sox still had a little bit of fight in them. In the fifth, Hanley Ramirez clubbed a two-run shot over the Monster to pull the Sox within four, and in the sixth Brock Holt drove in Mike Napoli with a ground-rule double to really make it a game again for the briefest of moments. But the bullpen effort that had held on for three innings could not manage a fourth. Robbie Ross surrendered a single to Wilson Ramos and a two-run shot to Tyler Moore, leaving the Nationals ahead by five and taking the last life from the Red Sox.
Miley is now the third Red Sox starter to record a strong debut performance in 2015, and immediately follow it up with a complete train wreck. The Nationals are certainly better than the Yankees, but not by such a wide margin. As with Buchholz and Masterson before him, Miley simply looked like a completely different pitcher.
If this remarkable Jekyll and Hyde act teaches us anything--though, really, this is a lesson that should be well-known to anyone who has watched baseball for any significant amount of time--it's that we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions based on one game. That's true both for the trio's first starts of the season, as well as their second. We'll know more the next time through, and still more after the fourth trip through. But for now we can be no more certain that these three are bad than we can be that they were good after their first outings.
For now, though, the Red Sox rotation is on shaky ground, much as they were heading into the season. It's not about the lack of an ace or anything like that. It's about finding five reasonable arms to go on a day-to-day basis. It seems likely they'll have to look either to Pawtucket or the trade market for one of those arms. The hope will be that they can find at least four from the five men they currently have.