Forget the fact that Daniel Bard, one of the best setup men in the major leagues, gave up a career-high of five earned runs last night to the average offense of the Toronto Blue Jays. Forget that this meant that knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (6-6, 5.03 ERA) was denied his 200th win for the seventh straight outing. Red Sox pitching, with few exceptions, has been lousy in the last week or so. Last night’s 11-10 loss was the third time in the last six games it has given up 10 or more runs. And this is the worst time of year to collapse in that department, with one of two American League playoff spots on the line. As it stands at the moment, the Sox trail the AL East-leading New York Yankees by 2.0 games and lead the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card race by an even 7.0 games.
Jon Lester (15-6, 2.93 ERA) is the best thing the BoSox have going for it, and he was lucky enough to be on the mound the other night when his offense bashed the Blue Jays by a whopping score of 14-0. But the Sox can’t win every night by creaming the opposition, even though it has to in order to get wins in games John Lackey (12-11, 6.11), Tim Wakefield and other end-of-rotation starters like Andrew Miller (6-2, 5.27 ERA) pitch.
Josh Beckett (12-5, 2.49 ERA) has been Cy Young-like all year long. But with a sprained ankle that he has to heal from now, and with Erik Bedard missing his next start with a sore knee, this means (Sox manager) Terry Francona has to keep both the struggling Wakefield and an inconsistent Miller in the rotation for now, and replace Bedard with a rookie (Kyle Weiland) on Saturday against the Rays.
Can the Red Sox survive without Beckett and Bedard until they come back? The BoSox may not catch the Yankees for the division anytime soon but certainly will keep its Wild Card lead (only by crushing its opponents). However, that lead will surely shrink between now and the time they return. And if Beckett does not come back fully healthy, the Sox may limp into the playoffs, but face an early exit. And no one in Boston is looking forward to that scenario after the disappointing finishes of the last two seasons.