The afternoon following Josh Beckett's meltdown Thursday at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was asked what needs to be done to improve a rotation that was destroying the team's chances to be competitive most nights. Beckett's stinker gave the rotation a 6.06 ERA through 31 games.
Valentine was brief in his reply.
"Pitch better," he said. "The guys that we have designated as our starters have to go out and pitch better. I don't know any other way to express that."
Although the sample size since then is small, the starters have answered the call.
The trio of Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard combined to post a 2.45 ERA in the next three games, each of them lasting at least six innings. It is no coincidence that the team won all three games, putting the "Golf-gate" melodrama in the rearview mirror and, perhaps, finally steering the club onto the right path.
Now Jon Lester and Beckett, the two members of the staff that are expected to do this kind of stuff, get to take on soft-hitting Seattle at home today and tomorrow. Wins in those games and this mess of a team, at least by last week's standards, will be knocking on the door of .500, a mark they didn't reach until mid-May of last year as well.
With good starting pitching, the overworked bullpen gets a break. The hitters relax at the plate knowing they do not need to make up a big deficit. The defense stays in a rhythm. Stars get a few innings off late in laughers, such as yesterday's 12-1 rout of the Indians when Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez were given a breather in the final innings.
In that way, Valentine's response to the question as to how to fix the rotation could be applied to the team as a whole. If he needs any evidence to support his case, he need only point to Cleveland series. A horrible opening outing was followed by three solid starting pitching performances.