Monday, March 10, 2014
The Red Sox hit Kansas City Monday for a three-game series, trying to snap a five-game losing streak.
It was the second straight time a trip began following five straight losses at Fenway Park, a place that has become a House of Horrors for the home team and its fans.
The past weekend against the Orioles was as grisly as it gets.
On Saturday Aaron Cook suffered an ugly gash in a collision at the plate and didn't make it out of the third inning despite trying to pitch through a cut that ultimately needed 11 stitches to close.
The wound was ugly indeed. So was Cook's line: 22/3 innings, seven runs (six earned), eight hits, one walk and no strikeouts.
Cook could be excused for his short-order appearance on Saturday. A wound that size was bad enough to make a hockey player consider taking the rest of the day off.
There was no excuse for Clay Buchholz the next day. A fully healthy Buchholz lasted one inning longer than Cook, giving up five earned runs in 32/3 innings against the Orioles.
Buchholz gave up three more home runs in his short outing, and has allowed a staggering 10 homers in six starts this season, allowing one every 32/3 innings.
He is the first starter in Red Sox history to begin a season by giving up five or more earned runs in each of his first six starts.
It's been a long time since the Orioles enjoyed a weekend like this in Boston. Baltimore hadn't swept a three-game series at Fenway since 1994, and it was a triumphant return for former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette.
The Orioles had never been more comfortable in the visitor's dugout at Fenway: from Portland's own Ryan Flaherty having a leisurely chat with the Press Herald's Steve Solloway on Saturday to designated hitter Chris Davis' two innings of shutout relief on Sunday, the guys in orange did just about everything right.
The home team? Not so much. Two weeks after limping away from a 15-9 collapse against the Yankees, the Red Sox have finally gotten their bullpen in order. Red Sox relievers had given up just seven earned runs in the last 262/3 innings before heading out to Kansas City. Three of those runs were given up by outfielder Darnell McDonald.
The problem is, all of that work came in just three games. Red Sox relievers threw six or more innings in each of the games against Baltimore, the first time the bullpen has been used that heavily since 1950.
The problem, as it has been much of the season, is the rotation. Red Sox starters have a 5.88 ERA, second worst in baseball.
Each of the five men currently in that rotation has an ERA of 4.38 or higher. A team that came into the season relying on the top of its rotation doesn't have a pitcher on top of his game.
It's been a long time since the Sox heard this much booing at Fenway Park. When Buchholz left Sunday's game, the boos were for him -- not Manager Bobby Valentine.
Incredibly, Boston has lost 10 of its last 11 games at home, and is in danger of suffering its first losing season at Fenway Park since 1996.
There is no question the team is feeling the effects of more than $75 million in payroll currently on the disabled list. Three of the top five hitters in the lineup are on the DL. We have no idea when Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury or Carl Crawford will return.
On the pitching front, Daisuke Matsuzaka is at least two or three rehab starts away from returning. When he does, it may be time to take Buchholz out of the rotation.
The Sox return home Thursday night. The road has been kind to Boston, and a two-week trip would be preferable to a three-night stay.
Still, it doesn't matter where this team is playing. This team isn't going to turn things around anywhere if the starting pitchers don't dramatically improve.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.