Red Sox Settle for Split, Raise Concerns

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Going into a 4-game set with the Kansas City Royals, the Red Sox felt pretty good about their chances. After all, the Royals were 42-59 and dead last in the AL Central (3rd worst in baseball) and the Red Sox were 62-37 and in 1st place in the stacked AL East. Two teams, going in two different directions and yet, that is why they play the games. After scoring just 1 run in their 14-inning loss to the Royals on Monday, the Red Sox bats exploded for 25 runs in the middle 2 games of the series, overpowering the lowly Royals. Then this afternoon, with a chance to gain .5 games on the idle Yankees, the Red Sox couldn’t muster more than 3 runs against Luke Hochevar and the Royals bullpen. The end result? The Red Sox sit 2.5 games up on the New York Yankees in the AL East, with the Tampa Bay Rays falling further and further away in the rear-view mirror.

The Red Sox had a chance to really put a bit of distance between them and the Yankees with a series victory at Fenway, but instead just maintained a slim lead (by AL East standards). The Yanks are trying to figure out their pitching staff situation as the Red Sox find themselves in a bit of a pitching staff predicament. The news on Clay Buchholz’s return has gotten more and more uncertain, leading to many questions about his health and immediate future. With Buchholz out of the picture for a potentially longer period of time (although nothing has been determined) and the return to earth of Andrew Miller, the Red Sox are in need of a few good arms for their starting rotation.

With the trade deadline just days away, Theo will be busy trying to make something happen, but for now, the Red Sox appear to be sticking with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, and a combination of Kyle Weiland and Alfredo Aceves. If the Red Sox hope to get to the post-season and compete, then they will have to think carefully about how this rotation would lineup in a 7-game series against a top AL team like the Texas Rangers. I cringe just thinking about anyone other than Beckett and Lester pitching to the powerful Rangers in a best of 7 ALCS format. Even more concerning than that thought is what happens if another pitcher succumbs to injury? Who do the Red Sox call upon for quality starts down the stretch in a pennant race?

Let this series with the Royals be a turning point for Theo and his team of crack negotiators: more starting pitching is desperately needed. At times, this Red Sox offense can overpower anyone (games 2 and 3 of this series), but that won’t happen every night. When facing the best pitchers in baseball, there are times the Red Sox need to match them pitch-by-pitch until the offense has a chance to get going and make a statement. If the Royals can hold the Red Sox offense at bay for 2 of their 4 games this week, then what could the Phillies do in a World Series setting?

We are a long way from the World Series and there is still a lot of baseball to be played in 2011, but now is the time to think about the immediate future of this ball club.

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