Bud Norris entered Sunday afternoon's game with an ERA over 17.00.
Granted, that's a figure taken from just three games, but even then it should be enough to inspire some confidence in a Red Sox win. It's hard to produce an ERA that high as a starter in one game, let alone over three. And if Wade Miley had suffered his disaster outing against the Nationals, he was coming off a scoreless start against Tampa Bay. There are few guarantees in baseball, but it felt like an easy enough opportunity for the Sox to get back to winning series.
They lost, 18-7.
If they were up against Clayton Kershaw this would have been a poor performance. Taking on a pitcher who has looked like one of the worst the league has to offer so far this young season? An unmitigated disaster.
I do not use the term "unmitigated" loosely here, either. At least not in terms of this game. There weren't really positives to be found here. There was bad defense in the outfield and infield alike. Mookie Betts helped Baltimore get on the board by losing a ball in the sun, then produced some efforts that were either lackluster or showed his inexperience in center. Balls got through the infield without much trouble, and Dustin Pedroia only avoided an error by the grace of the official scorer.
No, that doesn't mean Miley pitched particularly well and got unlucky. If he'd allowed a couple runs through two on a Mookie Betts error and Ryan Lavarnway bloop, that would be no big deal. But the Orioles started a conga line around the bases after that bloop, mixing some small amount of good luck with a good deal of hard contact and wild pitching from Miley. If he was not fully responsible for the first couple runs he allowed in his 2.1 innings of work, he earned the other five.
And yes, Bud Norris held the Red Sox scoreless through 6.2 long innings, with only Pablo Sandoval's first homer of the year tarnishing his outing. Hanley Ramirez added another immediately after with the Orioles bullpen in the game, and was basically the only bright spot with another shot--this one good for three runs--in the ninth after all was well-and-truly lost. At least they weren't supremely wasteful with runners in scoring position. 1-for-2, in fact! You can call that a positive if you tilt your head just right and don't think about it very hard. Or at all.
The Red Sox are now 4-7 in their last 11 games. Bad stretches for good teams are not unheard of. The 2013 Red Sox went 2-9 in early May, getting outscored 36-67 in the process. They, too, could not buy a hit with runners in scoring position. So there's precedent.
But even just barely holding on above .500 as they are, there's no pretending the Red Sox look good anymore. They beat up on some aces early on, but have gotten held quiet as often as not late, seemingly regardless of who was pitching to them. Yes, they scored seven today, but all of those runs came in garbage time. That's not good enough with a rotation where all five members have suffered at least one disaster start just four times through. Not when the opposing team isn't going to cough up a half dozen runs a game on terrible defense alone.
They need to be better than this, or it's going to be one very long season.