Sure, it's just a season-opening, three-game series against the Yankees, but so far in 2010, that expected monster has been relatively toothless as Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey have a combined zero wins, 5.17 ERA, 1.00 K/BB ratio and 16 hits allowed in 15 2/3 innings pitched.
This from the group that's supposed to lead the top rotation in all the game and make the Red Sox serious World Series contenders.
Beckett, Boston's de facto ace according to 47 percent of participating Red Sox fans, started on opening night against CC Sabathia and the Yankees. The hard-throwing righty gave up back-to-back homers in the second inning, however, and never really settled down, going 4 2/3 innings and allowing five runs (all earned) on eight hits and three walks, striking out just one.
"I felt good," Beckett told reporters after the Red Sox rallied against Sabathia and the New York bullpen to win 9-7. "I had no physical issues at all. The atmosphere was great. I felt good. It just came down to making pitches when you need to, and time and time again, I couldn't do that."
Lester voiced a similar sentiment after allowing four runs on five hits and three walks in five innings on Tuesday night.
"I just didn't put guys away," the lefty told MLB.com. "When I needed that pitch, I either yanked it or left it up or threw it in the dirt or whatever. I just wasn't able to get that knockout pitch, I guess."
The newest member of the rotation, Lackey was by far the most impressive of the trio, tossing six shutout innings against the Bronx Bombers on Wednesday. But the Red Sox offense scored just one run, and the bullpen blew the 1-0 lead and eventually the game as the Yanks scored twice in the 10th to steal the victory and the series.
"As a starter, your job is to give your team a chance to win," Lackey said afterward. "I felt like I did that. After that, you just want a team win. Getting a win is nice, but it's not a huge goal of mine. I want the team's success more than anything."
Unfortunately, the team couldn't get it done.
For a team purportedly built around run prevention — in other words, pitching and defense — the Red Sox haven't gotten enough of either over the first three games. The team ERA through three games is 4.82, 23rd in the majors, and the team WHIP is 1.54, also 23rd.
And the defense? Well, it's been solid, but newly acquired shortstop Marco Scutaro's error in the eighth on Tuesday kept a Yankees rally going that eventually produced the go-ahead run.
To be fair, losing two of three games at home to the Yankees in April does not a season ruin. But it does raise some issues about the infallibility of the Red Sox' pitching staff.
Beckett, Lester and Lackey will all get their fair share of W's in 2010, but this group of Red Sox is going to have to find other ways to win games as well. Whether it's getting some timely hitting, more reliable relief pitching or knocking the ball out of the park with a little more regularity, some other players must step up in order for the Hub to be hopping come playoff time.