The Boston Red Sox have bashed their way to the best record in major league baseball. In a three-game winning streak last week, the Sox scored 24 runs after the sixth inning. It was a stunning display of late-game offense from the Red Sox, who needed every one of those runs to overcome a pitching staff that has suddenly taken on water.

You can’t hammer your way to postseason success. You need good pitching to go deep into October. The Red Sox had been getting that pitching from its rotation. From the July 2 through Aug. 19 Red Sox starters posted a 2.91 ERA – the best in the American League. In that time the Sox went from one game up in the American League East to a commanding 91/2 games ahead of the New York Yankees.

It was highly unlikely the rotation could continue to perform at that high level. And it hasn’t. In 12 games through Friday night’s ugly 6-1 loss to the White Sox in Chicago, Red Sox starters had a 6.04 ERA. In those dozen games only one starter notched a victory. The lead in the AL East has remained large, but that’s as much because of the Yankees struggles as anything else.

It’s one thing to do that in the dog days of August, but it’ll be a completely different story in the pressure cooker of October. The Sox will be facing the game’s best pitchers then, and runs will be hard to come by.

Coming into the season, the Sox had a surplus of starting pitchers. That arsenal has been whittled away by injuries over the course of a marathon season. Chris Sale made just one start in August, and has only recently begun throwing off a mound. With the minor league seasons over, there’s no opportunity for Sale to make a rehab appearance. Instead he will build up his length over several short starts as he works toward being fully stretched out by October.

The Sox have survived the loss of their ace in large part because David Price has been outstanding in Sale’s absence. Price’s 1.62 ERA since the All-Star break is among the best in baseball, and he’s limited opposing hitters to a .209 batting average. He was cruising along until he took a line drive off the wrist at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

Both Sale and Price could return as early as this weekend against Houston. The Sox can only hope that each man picks up where he left off.

That’s why Eduardo Rodriguez’s return from the disabled list on Saturday night was so important. E-Rod pitched 52/3 innings in Chicago, and struck out 12 batters with an overpowering fastball. He picked up where he left off when he was injured on July 14, and has now given up just one run in his last 242/3 innings.

How important is his return? Since July 4 the Red Sox are 18-0 in games started by Sale, Price and Rodriguez. The trio posted a 1.41 ERA in 1081/3 innings with 143 strikeouts in that stretch.

If that trio is healthy in the playoffs the Sox have a chance to go deep. Rick Porcello has been inconsistent and Nathan Eovaldi has struggled since his first two starts with Boston. Eovaldi had a 9.53 ERA in five starts before his outing in Atlanta on Monday, but with a fastball that can hit 100 mph on the radar gun he could be a major addition to the bullpen. To do that, he’ll have to be more efficient than he was in Monday’s 39-pitch first inning against the Braves.

Last year the Houston Astros won the World Series primarily on the strength of their starters. The Red Sox believe they have the ability to pitch their way to October success with a rotation that can go deep into games.

We know the Red Sox have the offense to win. We also know you can’t rely strictly on offense to win it all. With a month to go, the Sox need to get their top of the rotation back in order to reach their goals for 2018.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.