To think the Red Sox, a team with a record of 39-48 and a team eight games out of first place in the American League East going into Sunday, could actually be worse off than they currently are is a frightening thought.
But, without the seasons of No. 1 and No. 2 starters Jon Lester and John Lackey, the Red Sox would more than likely be owners of the worst record in baseball.
In games Lester or Lackey have started in this season, the Sox are 21-15. In games either of the two do not start, the Red Sox are 18-33, a pretty large disparity. In total, Red Sox starters have thrown a total of 49 quality starts – Lester and Lackey have 25 of them.
Coming into the season, it was thought the Red Sox had one of the deeper rotations in the league, but going into play Sunday their 4.17 ERA is 24th in baseball.
Despite Boston's playoff chances becoming slimmer by the day, Lester especially has risen to the occasion, putting aside everything that has to do with him and a contract for 2015 to pitch one of the best stretches of his career.
“There’s been times throughout his career where he gets on these stretches and you just give him the ball and get out of the way,” manager John Farrell said Saturday. “He’s now into a solid month and a half of elite performances against good lineups.”
Lester’s June was spectacular as he posted a 1.98 ERA in six starts, the best mark in any single month with at least four starts since he had a 1.84 ERA over six starts in May 2010. In his last five starts, he’s allowed four earned runs over 37.2 innings for a 0.96 ERA. He's 3-0 and the Red Sox are 4-1 in those games.
“That is what I try and pride myself on,” said Lester when asked about going deep into games. “The bullpen knowing coming into my starts that I’m going to go seven innings – I’ve always tried priding myself on innings and going deep in every start. I know, at times, you can't control that, but I am going to go as long as John (Farrell) lets me and see what happens at the end.”
Though Lackey has struggled a bit of late, the team has still gone 4-2 over his last six starts and he’s posted a 3.84 ERA for the entire year, 25th in the AL.
So yes, the Red Sox season could be even worse at the moment if not for the two guys at the top of their rotation. And with the speculation of both players’ contracts going foward, this even furthers the case for how valuable they are.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter: @RyanHannable