After three starts, Rick Porcello has the sixth-worst ERA in the AL among qualifiers. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Red Sox starting rotation struggling after first 2 weeks, posting worst ERA in baseball

Ryan Hannable
April 19, 2015 - 2:57 pm

Going into the season it was understood the Red Sox wouldn't have the best starting rotation in the game. But, the worst starting rotation (by ERA) after two weeks? That wasn't expected, or accepted. Following Rick Porcello allowing eight runs in five-plus innings in an 8-3 loss to the Orioles on Sunday, through 12 games the Red Sox' starting rotation has a combined ERA of 6.24, the worst in baseball. Porcello, who had been the best starter to this point in the year, struggled with his command as well as the home run ball, allowing two homers en route to the eight runs in five-plus innings and his first loss. He's now allowed five home runs in 19 innings so far this season. "Just pitches up in the zone," Porcello said. "Good pitches for them to drive. I'€™ve got to work better at getting the ball down." Of the 12 games the Red Sox have played so far this season, Red Sox starters have recorded an out in the seventh inning just three times, gone less than five innings three times, and have allowed more than seven runs four times. The last stat is particularly alarming -- in a third of their games this season, Red Sox starters have allowed seven or more runs. Clay Buchholz allowed 10 against the Yankees, Porcello eight against the Orioles, and lastly Wade Miley and Justin Masterson seven against the Nationals. (For what it's worth, Jon Lester and John Lackey combined for four starts allowing seven or more runs all of last season) Buchholz and Porcello were predicted to lead the rotation, but after the first two weeks the Red Sox have two players in the top-10 for worst ERA's in the American League among qualifiers -- Porcello (sixth, 6.63) and Buchholz (ninth, 6.06). While teams can survive without an ace, those teams cannot get by without having dependable starters. With starters not going deep into games, it puts a lot of pressure on the bullpen, and sooner or later taxing the group with innings will ultimately force the group to crack. Having an ace, or two, can alleviate some of that pressure by going at least seven or more innings every time they take to the mound. "You realize it'€™ll be a reality where a starter will put together three, four, five good runs through the rotation at a time and we'€™ll be sitting back there comparing about the lack of work and then a couple of times through it will feel like we'€™re out there pitching probably too much," reliever Craig Breslow said after throwing three scoreless innings of relief Sunday. So far the bullpen hasn't seen the affects of their starters not going deep into games, as after Sunday they have an ERA of 2.74. They were 14th in baseball in relief pitching ERA going into the day, but could crack the top-10 after four scoreless innings. The alarming trend is they've now thrown 49 2/3 innings in 12 games. While the 19-inning game against the Yankees needs to be taken into account, the group has thrown the third-most innings in all of baseball for relievers going into play Sunday. There is no doubt if the trend continues it can only lead to bad things. By way of comparison to Red Sox teams in past years, Red Sox starters had an ERA of 4.36, 26th in baseball last year, leading to a last place finish. In 2013, the World Series champs had a 3.84 ERA, 11th in baseball. Getting the ball next for the Red Sox are the two pitchers who have seemingly had the most issues this year -- Masterson (10 2/3 innings/9 runs) and Miley (7 2/3 innings/9 runs) each allowing seven runs their last time out. As Breslow pointed out, things can go the other way where starters get in a groove and go deep into games. The Red Sox can only hope that is the case coming up. The team lost two straight games for the first time this year Sunday, and without a solid outing from Masterson on Monday, they could be looking at their third. "You'€™ve got to have a short memory and turn the page," Porcello said.