It's June, and the Sox are sitting in last place in the American League East with a record below .500, which is uncharted territory for a team that has finished third or better in the division every year since 1997.
Injuries have decimated the Red Sox' lineup, but that hasn't slowed down the offense much — Boston ranks in the top 10 for all major hitting categories. But the pitching staff is lagging behind considerably, ranking 28th in baseball with a 4.45 ERA.
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz headline the Red Sox rotation, and all three have been to the All-Star game in their careers. And yet, each pitcher has an ERA over 4.00, and Buchholz is the only one with a winning record. The No. 4 starter, Felix Doubront, has actually been the most consistent Boston starter this season with a 6-3 record. But the inconsistency of the bullpen at times has made life even tougher on the Sox' rotation.
Beckett, Buchholz and Lester have all turned things around a bit, and each has delivered some quality starts, but it hasn't been enough. The Red Sox don't have an ace pitcher they can lean on. And with injuries to the lineup and bullpen, a No. 1 starter would do this team a lot of good.
Pitching is winning in the major leagues right now. The Washington Nationals gave the Sox a firsthand look at that over the weekend, sweeping Boston thanks to quality starts from Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
The Red Sox could try to shore up their starting pitching on the market, but trading for quality is easier said than done. And even though the Red Sox have pieces to move, the answer to their pitching woes can be solved internally.
Between Beckett, Lester and Buchholz, the Red Sox have the makings of an elite rotation. Add in a healthy Daisuke Matsusaka and Doubront pitching the way he has this season, and the Red Sox have five quality starters. But they all need to pitch to their ability, and to do so consistently.
Bobby Valentine can't anoint an ace of the staff. The ace needs to emerge and take control of this rotation. The bullpen will get healthier over time, and the offensive production, which is among the best in the American League, should only improve once players return to the lineup.
But the Red Sox need to find consistency at the top of the rotation and throughout the pitching staff in order to get back to the winning ways they have become accustomed to.
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