Red Sox: Crucial homestand begins for back end of the rotation

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 23: Rick Porcello
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 23: Rick Porcello /

With the Red Sox having dropped 6 of their last 10, the team returns home for a 9 game stand which will see them rely heavily on their 3-5 starters.

After the Boston Red Sox dropped three of four to the New York Yankees, six of 10 overall, and saw their lead in the AL East cut to 2.5 games following last nights’ bludgeoning at the hands of Canada’s team, everything has begun to feel a lot like 2011 around here. Don’t be so quick to hit that panic button with Robert Andino‘s face on it though! We’re here to be optimistic today. The team now returns to the friendly confines of Fenway Park for a lengthy, and much needed, nine-game home stand. Over the course of these nine, Boston will take on Toronto (64-74), Tampa Bay (69-70), and Oakland (58-79).

The team now returns to the friendly confines of Fenway Park for a lengthy, and much needed, nine-game home stand. Over the course of these nine, Boston will take on Toronto (64-74), Tampa Bay (69-70), and Oakland (58-79).

With these weaker opponents in mind, Sox fans and players alike can take solace in that Boston owns the third best home record in the American League.

Even with some lowly teams coming to Fenway, the Red Sox will be handing the ball to their 3-5 starters in Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Doug Fister for 6 of these 9 games. It’ll be an important test for this trio as the Red Sox look to begin their playoff push and find separation from the hovering Yankees in their rearview. More importantly, they can solidify their No. 3 starter for a potential series in October.

Porcello, Rodriguez, and Fister all come into this home stand as having been adequate pitchers for Boston this season. While at times they’ve shown glimpses of brilliance, they’ve also had their fair share of blowups.

Rick Porcello:

In Porcello, we see the obvious – that he hasn’t lived up to the unfair expectations following his sparkling 2016 Cy Young season.  A steady hand in tossing 181.1 innings up to this point, Ricky P hasn’t given the Red Sox many truly dominant outings, having gone 7 or more innings in just 6 of his 29 outings.

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After last nights’ disappointing start which saw him go just 5.1 innings and give up seven runs, six of which came on long balls (surprised?), we can’t exactly say September has begun well for Rick. Coming into last night’s game against the Blue Jays, Porcello had dominated the birds north of the border this year, going 1-1 with a 0.66 ERA against them prior to last night, making his outing that much more deflating for a team that needed a pick-me-up after their lifeless series in the Bronx.

With another start lined up against Tampa Bay over this home stand, it’ll be important to see whether Rick can improve his ugly numbers against Tampa on the season (1-3, 5.18 ERA, 24.1 IP), something that would go a long way for the both he and the Sox as they try to get back on track.

If the Red Sox are able to unlock the 2016 version of Porcello here in September, it would certainly go a long way in clearing up the team’s playoff rotation while giving them a legitimately reliable No. 3 starter in their potential meeting with either Cleveland or Houston – something the team seriously lacked during last years postseason. No offense, Clay.

Eduardo Rodriguez:

When it comes to Eduardo Rodriguez, it’s truly a tale of two seasons. Pre-injury and post-injury. Prior to his bullpen fall in Baltimore, Eddie had a 4-1 record with a 2.77 ERA in his first 10 starts of the season. In his 10 starts since the injury took place, Rodriguez has very clearly not been the same pitcher. Going 0-4 with a 6.05 ERA.

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For the first two months of the season, it was beginning to look like this would be the year Eduardo put all his potential together and emerged as the No. 2 or 3 starter he was touted as when the Red Sox acquired him from Baltimore back in 2014. While the potential is very much still there, it’s a matter of getting Rodriguez on a roll in time for October. In his 10 post-injury starts, E-Rod has only turned in two quality starts. Both of which came in back-to-back appearances against Chicago and New York on 8/4 and 8/11. Since then he took a big step back in giving up run totals of 4, 3, 5, and 5 in his ensuing four starts.

Over this home stand, Rodriguez is slated to face both Toronto and Oakland. While he’s only made one start against each of these teams thus far this year, they have been promising outings, with his May 21 start against Oakland being arguably his best appearance of the year when he tossed eight innings and surrendered three runs.

Rodriguez, in my opinion, is the most intriguing option to take the Red Sox No. 3 spot come playoff time because of his pure stuff, promise, and what he was able to show us in April and May. While I don’t believe he’ll right the ship in time for that to happen and see him in more of a swingman role a la Drew Pomeranz in last years playoffs, a reliable E-Rod immediately becomes the no-brainer No. 3 starter for this Red Sox team. All we need is for that right knee to hold up.

Doug Fister:

Last but not least, perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the 2017 season – Doug Fister. While this feel good story has been no secret, as he went from unsigned free agent to 1-hitting the reigning AL Champions, Fister has thrown himself into the conversation to take the mound for the Red Sox in a potential Game 3 in October.

After his Red Sox career got off to a rocky start, (0-5, 6.04 ERA, 25.1 IP in 7 starts from June 25 to July 25), he has been a revelation since the trade deadline – going 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 6 starts against the likes of Cleveland, New York, and Baltimore. All teams well within the playoff race.

Hopefully, for the Red Sox, Fister can keep this hot stretch going with starts against Toronto and Oakland lined up for this 9 game stretch. With both teams well below .500 and all but mathematically eliminated, one would be fair to think Fister should be able to breeze easily through these 2 lineups, given he is able to maintain his ability to produce ground balls from his opponents.

When it comes to these three starters for the Red Sox, picking a potential No. 3 playoff starter has turned into a very real headache. With Porcell, you get innings and consistency, yet lack true shutdown performances. In Rodriguez, you’ll find the promise his young arm brings along with a dominant stretch as recently as the early months of the season, but injury concerns which derailed his imposing form. Lastly, when it comes to Fister, you find the hottest pitcher in the Red Sox rotation, but with plenty of question marks as to whether he can maintain his recent numbers.

As for now, Boston is in great shape as the team heads into the final weeks of the season with a 2.5 game lead in the standings, a 9 game home stand against what promises to be light competition, and 2 starters at the head of the rotation who have proved they can be relied on in Sale and Pomeranz.

Next: Could David Price head to the bullpen this postseason?

With likely 4-5 starts each left for their group of Porcello, Rodriguez, and Fister this season, the Red Sox great position lends them the affordability to wait and see who emerges as that #3 starter for the ALDS. With the playoffs seemingly in reach for this team, this home stand will be just the first step in seeing how the rotation will shape up by the time October rolls around.

All statistics provided by Baseball Reference.