There were a lot of late-arriving fans at Fenway Park Friday night, and they had the right idea: This year, with Josh Beckett pitching, the worst parts of the game for the Red Sox almost always come early.
Beckett had another dismal start to his start, and the Red Sox were down 4-0 to the Blue Jays after just two innings. A few hours before the game, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had told Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub that Beckett has “been very consistent if you look at the entire year.”
That seems like a stretch, unless you consider the early parts of games—when the Texas Chicken King has been consistently bad.
Beckett allowed two runs in the first inning Friday, raising his first-inning ERA to 10.69 for the season. He allowed two more in the second, and is now averaging 6.65 runs allowed over the first three innings of his starts.
The fact he does far better from the fourth inning on is of little consolation; Beckett consistently puts the Red Sox in an early hole, and the team has won just six of his 16 starts.
This latest lackluster start in the eventual 6-1 loss was especially frustrating coming on the heels of Boston's exhilarating walk-off win Thursday, and left fans wondering once again if the Red Sox can ever turn this season around. It also again raises the question of how long it will take before Cherington and the Red Sox brass say enough is enough and dump Beckett.
When Massarotti asked Cherington Friday whether Beckett (now 5-8) or fellow underachieving starter Jon Lester (5-7) was on the trading block,the GM would not confirm either way but did say that the clubhouse problems that helped derail last year's team have not been a factor in this year's struggles.
“I haven't seen anything from anybody in our clubhouse this year, including the pitchers, that has been anything but professionalism and trying to get the job done on the field,” Cherington said.
There may be no longer be beer and chicken to worry about, but with the team now 12-22 in games pitched by its two “aces,” more than the menu has to change if Boston expects to stay in the wild-card hunt.
Tomorrow it's Lester's turn in the rotation. The trade deadline is July 31. Red Sox Nation is watching.
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at amazon.com and his Red Sox reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com/. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @saulwizz.