By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Oh, the final score looked good this time, the Red Sox dropping a 4-2 decision to the Houston Astros last night in the opener of a measuring-stick series deep in the heart of Texas. But the reality? It may already be time to wonder whether the Red Sox have what it takes to compete with the big boys of baseball in this 2018 season.
And their greatest flaw against these Astros may be what is perceived as their greatest strength.
Don’t look now, Red Sox followers, but the team’s starting pitcher failed them again last night against the best team in baseball. Forget the nonsense about how Drew Pomeranz took the proverbial step in the right direction. He dug his team an early hole by giving up a two-run home run in the first inning and, once again, had the Red Sox running uphill against what is likely the best lineup in the game.
“He was a lot better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora offered to reporters of Pomeranz. “Overall he battled. There were some good fastballs to finish off guys. He finished on good note and now he moves on to the next one. Obviously the result wasn’t there.”
Pomeranz’ ERA for the game last night translates to 7.20. The Red Sox never held a lead. And what’s most worrisome is that Pomeranz alone is hardly to blame in a wretched stretch of performances against the Astros that dates back to the middle of last season.
In the last nine games against the Astros featuring starts by the current members of the Red Sox rotation – Pomeranz, Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez – the Red Sox are 3-6. The collective pitching line of those Sox starters looks the numbers on a Powerball ticket, giving the Sox the same chance of beating the Astros as they have of winning the lottery.
The ugly truth:
Collective ERA: 9.26.
Collective walks per nine innings: 4.1.
Collective hits per nine innings: 14.4.
Collective home runs per nine innings: 3.1.
Wow, that stinks.
Now look, don’t go jumping to ridiculous conclusions. It’s June 1. Nothing is even close to over yet. But the Red Sox have a great deal of resources poured into their starting rotation, from the trades made to bring both Sale and Pomeranz here to the money paid out to both Price and Porcello. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski built these Sox in the image of his Detroit Tigers teams that featured Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, only to see those clubs done in by their bullpens.
But this Red Sox team? Against the Astros, they have been unable to advance past Square One. The mighty Sox rotation hasn’t been able to make it through an average of even four innings against a Houston lineup that tees off against them as if at the driving range. Unless or until the Sox fix that obvious problem, it isn’t even worth putting them in the same breath as the reigning world champions.
Over the next three days, the Sox will face Astros starters Gerrit Cole, Verlander and Charlie Morton, who rank a respective third, first and fourth in the American League in ERA. The Red Sox will counter with, in order, Sale, Price and Porcello , their top three starters. The matchups aren’t exactly what they might be in October, but you get the idea: our best against your best.
By late Sunday, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have definitive answers of any kind.
But it won’t be a good feeling if we all wake up on Monday morning sharing the same belief: that the Red Sox’ pitching isn’t good enough.