The Red Sox are in the middle of a critical stretch which includes ten games against the Yankees, Rays, and Orioles—three teams within the division that possess solid pitching and records over .500. It’s a heck of a way to start the second half of the season for a team that could use a bullpen piece or three.
Monday night’s loss, as deflating as it felt at the time, shouldn’t be perceived as anything more than it was – a divisional loss against a hot team. Matt Moore was absolutely fantastic. Nothing more to it.
In fact, as losses go, this one was not a particularly bad one. It was actually an excellent demonstration of how the Red Sox have been able to play at or around .600 baseball for most of the season when no one believed that they could sustain that level of success before the year began. And that’s before Jon Lester decided to post a 93 ERA+ through his first 20 starts of the season, and Clay Buchholz’ status went from Cy Young candidate to Missing in Action.
This team is deep. Last night reinforced that point.
With Buchholz on the shelf until at least some time in late August, the Red Sox have turned to 24-year old Brandon Workman. The tall Texan began the season pitching with Double-A Portland before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in early June.
Meanwhile, Allen Webster, despite his eye-popping stuff, failed in his attempts to claim Buchholz’ rotation spot. In six big league starts, Webster posted a robust 9.57 ERA while walking 4.8 batters per nine frames. He simply was not ready. Alfredo Aceves filled in admirably at times, but the Red Sox have deemed his on-field performance not worth the baggage that comes with being, well, Alfredo Aceves.
Including Monday night, he has made two major league starts. His line? 12.1 innings pitched, nine hits, four earned runs, three walks, and a 2.92 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting a meager .214 against him. Workman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the A’s in his debut, and he settled down last night against the Rays after a shaky first inning. Both Oakland and Tampa Bay would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, so it’s not as if Workman has faced the Astros and the White Sox in his two starts. In fact, the Rays are behind only the Orioles, Tigers, and Red Sox in team OPS in the American League. The A’s are more towards the middle of the pack.
Webster was not ready for the majors. Workman, on the other hand, certainly appears equipped to contribute down the stretch. He deserves a ton of credit for working hard and performing well, but the Red Sox front office should be commended for building the organizational depth up to the point where the team can confidently pluck guys like Workman from their farm and expect good results. We’re only two summers removed from this, after all.
Now, as the deadline approaches, the Red Sox are in an interesting position. They do not have any glaring holes on the roster with the exception of the bullpen, an area where pieces should come easily and at a relatively inexpensive cost. They could pursue a starter, like Jake Peavy, to fortify the pitching staff and move Workman to the bullpen. Or the team could decide to pass on the starting pitching market at the deadline and only look to augment their bullpen.
To be honest, I’m fine with either choice. My ambivalence towards the situation derives from knowing that the Red Sox finally have enough depth in the organization to support a quality team in Boston.
And despite the loss, last night was a perfect example of just that.