No Need to Panic Over Smoltz's Struggles ... Yet To put things simply, it was not a very good night for the Red Sox.

They lost to Texas, 6-3 and lost the lead in the AL East, thanks to a walk-off home run by the Yankees' Hideki Matsui.

Making matters worse, John Smoltz, the man acquired to help guide the Red Sox to the promised land, got shelled, giving up six earned runs and three homers in failing once again to get out of the sixth inning.

Disappointing? Clearly. But it's still not the time to christen the nickname "Smoltzuzaka" and write the 42-year-old off for the year.

Realistically, there's no real reason to be overly optimistic about Smoltz. Yet at the same time, there's even less reason to believe he's washed up.

The numbers, as they say, don't lie, and they're not pretty:

1-3, 6.31 ERA, 25.2 IP, 33 H, 18 ER, .303 BAA, 22 SO, 4 BB

For anyone looking for a positive sign regarding Smoltz, it's his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.5. That number, while it may not keep the ball in the park, is a sign that Smoltz can still command the strike zone. It obviously hasn't resulted in a quality start, but it could be an indication that Smoltz isn't too far from finding it.

"I'm frustrated, but yet I'm still pleased with the way I'm throwing the baseball," Smoltz said after Monday's debacle. "It's just the results have been awful. They have not matched the effort or, for what I think, the results."

Those results could have been very different had the Red Sox benefited from a few breaks in Texas. After Kevin Youkilis scored following a bloop single that nearly blinded Rangers outfielder David Murphy, it looked like it was the Red Sox' night. However, a barehanded stab by Kevin Millwood to cap off a 10-pitch at-bat by Dustin Pedroia, another robbery of a Pedroia hit by third baseman Michael Young and a perfectly executed relay from Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler to gun down Mike Lowell at the plate changed things significantly.

But that's baseball, and unfortunately for Smoltz, he's been on the wrong end of the bounces through his first five starts. Fortunately for him and the Red Sox, the righty is still working on improving.

"Everybody's in the stride of the middle of the season and he's not 100 percent executing his pitches … [but] I think those days are ahead of him," said Smoltz's battery mate Jason Varitek. "I don't think he's very far off."

The process of reaching that level may not be speedy, and if Monday night was any indication, it may not be fun to watch. But there is reason to believe it will happen.

Putting aside his injury-shortened season in 2008, Smoltz's ERA in his second month of the season was, on average, 1.625 points lower than that of his first month. Smoltz's next start will be the first of his second month of the 2009 season. While that fact may not inspire overflowing confidence, fans and coaches at least owe Smoltz the benefit of the doubt that better times are on the way.

And in regards to the newfound tie atop the AL East standings, that needn't worry fans of the Red Sox — that eight-game lead in the tiebreak isn't going anywhere.