Boston has lost six of its last seven games, and the primary culprit has been the team's starting pitchers, who have an 8.01 ERA in those seven games. To be fair, those games have been played against the American League's first-, second- and fourth-ranked offenses in terms of runs scored — the Red Sox are third in that category — but part of being a good team is having the ability to beat other good teams, something the 49-51 Red Sox have struggled with this season.
Things looked to be turning around in the rotation after the All-Star break, when Boston took three of four from the Chicago White Sox, the AL's fifth-best offense. In those three victories, Sox pitchers allowed a total of just three runs.
But the Sox allowed 37 runs over their next four games, all losses. Then Clay Buchholz took the mound against the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Buchholz produced a performance worthy of an ace — and let there be no doubt, he's been the Sox' ace over the last two months — going seven innings and allowing just four hits and one run as the Red Sox won 2-1.
Although Buchholz earned his second consecutive no decision — he held the White Sox to just one run over eight innings on July 19 — his role in the Sox' lone victory this week was enough to earn him Amica Pitcher of the Week honors for the second consecutive week.
Thanks to a rough start, Buchholz' season line still doesn't look great, with a 4.93 ERA, but over his last eight starts, he's been the Sox' best pitcher. During that span, Buchholz is 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA and a phenomenal 0.98 WHIP. He's also walking batters at a much lower rate, distributing 12 free passes in 58 1/3 innings over his last eight outings compared to 27 in 49 1/3 innings in his first nine starts.
Things haven't been much better in the Red Sox bullpen over the past week, as Boston relievers have posted a 6.10 ERA over the last seven games. Again, it must be noted that those numbers have come against three of the league's top four offenses, but they're not encouraging for a team that sits 5 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot — and 11 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Yankees.
One pitcher who has not been affected by the Red Sox' recent swoon is closer Alfredo Aceves. Whether that's because Aceves has figured things out or because he has not had many leads to protect is unclear, but the righty looked good Tuesday in recording his 21st save of the season, a total that ranks sixth in the AL. That makes seven consecutive scoreless appearances for Aceves, who has not allowed a run since July 7.
With two more games this weekend against the Yankees — who boast the majors' best record at 60-39 — followed by three against the suddenly hot Tigers, winners of 14 of their last 19, Boston will need the pitching to step up if the team is to climb back into the playoff race.