Here’s a positive to take from the Boston Red Sox’ three-game losing streak to start the season: the fans and media are already in midseason form when it comes to panic and dread.
Thursday’s opener was about as great a game as I can remember seeing on Opening Day. Justin Verlander and Jon Lester matched each other for eight innings, before each bullpen blew up the foundations carefully laid by the starters. Josh Beckett was awful for Boston on Saturday, and Clay Buchholz wasn’t much better yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday’s game also featured an encore performance by the bullpen, when Alfredo Aceves immediately gave up three runs to let the Tigers tie it up at 10-10 in the ninth inning. Mark Melancon, not to be outdone, gave up three more runs in the bottom of the 11th, sending Detroit home with a 13-12 win and a sweep to start their season.
So, there were six runs offered up by two of the rocks of the bullpen, surrendered quickly and efficiently to a lineup that could legitimately be described as a powerhouse. Troubling? Of course. But it happens.
The hand-wringing has already begun in New England. That much seemed inevitable. The questions will revolve around Aceves’ and Melancon’s roles in the bullpen, whether manager Bobby Valentine knows how to use his seemingly rudderless bullpen, whether there was a fried chicken restaurant near Comerica Park, and any other ridiculous storyline that can be imagined.
It’s all a bit much. This team is, mostly likely, not going to lose 162 games. If their health holds up, they should break 90 wins and be in the playoff hunt. If Felix Doubront, who makes his first start today in Toronto, can come out strong, that should take immediate the pressure off, and the same goes for Daniel Bard on Tuesday. A solid outing will quell calls for either to leave the rotation and join bullpen. The negativity will only be quieted by wins.
Just remember the positives, and there are many. There are no obvious holes in the lineup, and when healthy, they should be able to score as many runs as anyone. When healthy, Lester, Beckett and Buchholz are a damn solid top three. Bard and Doubront have promise. Daisuke Matsuzaka is returning midseason should someone falter or fall to injury.
And bullpens are fluid, maddening beasts. A dominant corps one season can trip the next, arms go north and south, curveballs break and hang. The pitchers who seem like disasters now could very well figure things out quickly, only to lose it again, and find it.
It’s a strange game, and it’s a long one. The game isn’t so much within the sets of nine innings as it is in the series and the collective of the season.
It’s only three games. It could have been much worse.