BOSTON — On Tuesday night, Brock Holt scored the eventual game-winning run in the All-Star Game. It gives home-field advantage to the American League champion in this year’s World Series.
That, of course, will not be Holt’s Boston Red Sox.
As Major League Baseball resumes its regular season this weekend, the race to the postseason officially begins. For some teams, the dream of playing in October is real. For others, mid-July marks the beginning of some serious soul-searching in order to find answers for 2016.
The Red Sox find themselves in the latter group, even though 6.5 games out of first place in the AL East means you’re still mathematically “alive.” In finding that these Sox aren’t going to the postseason this year, the front office should already know why.
They can’t pitch.
Sitting in last place in the division with a 42-47 record, the Red Sox have the third-worst team ERA in Major League Baseball, worst in the American League. You aren’t going to get into the playoffs like that, nevermind win a championship.
And sure, while Clay Buchholz and Wade Miley were pitching their behinds off to start July, reality set in last weekend as things fell apart and the first-place Yankees took two-of-three from the Sox at Fenway.
First, it was Buchholz leaving Friday’s game in the fourth inning with elbow stiffness, sending him to the DL. Then, it was Miley allowing six runs in 5 and 1/3 on Sunday, in arguably the biggest start of his career.
(And yes, Miley should be criticized more for Sunday’s loss than David Ortiz. Making you read an entire column on why Ortiz should get the benefit of the doubt would be insulting your intelligence. To think Ortiz didn’t play and left the ballpark because he was told he had to play first base again is insane. Let’s just leave it at that.)
Anyways, when you score six runs in your own ballpark, in the rubber match of a crucial series with the first-place team, which was essentially a must-win, that’s a game you have to win. If you can pitch.
These Red Sox have too many questions with their rotation — and I haven’t even mentioned the issues with Justin Masterson, Joe Kelly, and Rick Porcello — to leapfrog an entire division. Also, in case you’re wondering, there are nine teams ahead of the Sox in the AL Wild Card race.
So they have to now spend the next two-and-a-half months figuring out what their rotation will look like next season, with the most intriguing look going to lefty prospect Brian Johnson, who replaced Buchholz on the roster last weekend.
The 24-year-old Johnson has a 2.73 ERA in 16 starts this year with Triple-A Pawtucket. He looks to follow in the footsteps of fellow lefty prospect-turned-pro Eduardo Rodriguez, who was called up to Boston with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts with the PawSox.
Then, of course, there’s the trade deadline. Both non-waiver (July 31) and waiver (Aug. 31). The Red Sox need to seriously consider finding a way to pry a top-prospect pitcher away from a contending club, much like they did last year around this time when they traded Andrew Miller to the Orioles for Rodriguez, who is now one of the most reliable arms — if not the most reliable arm — in Boston.
That, or pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade that will land an already-dominant starting pitcher by overwhelming a smaller-market club with an offer they can’t refuse, for a player they won’t be able to afford in coming years.
Because this current pitching staff just isn’t good enough to make Holt’s impact in the All-Star Game matter.
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