Ever since Clay “J.D.” Bucholz last pitched in early June, the Boston Red Sox have been without a truly dominant starting pitcher. Bucholz, who has not pitched since his daughter slept on his shoulder awkwardly, has been out with shoulder soreness for two months, was off to the best start of his career. The Red Sox have been winning regardless. Clay is content to sit out through this injury while the rest of the Sox’ very average rotation plays through pain and gives their team a chance to win every night. It’s reminiscent of the Detroit Pistons team that won the NBA Finals without any legitimate superstars or the “No Name Defense” of the 70s Miami Dolphins.
As Red Sox fans, we used to hate John Lackey, as one of the faces of Fried-Chicken-and-Beer-gate, and for sounding like an excuse making Muppet, but he’s been a model of toughness this season. Jon Lester hasn’t been the dominant force he was when he was younger, but at least he takes the ball every fifth day. Ryan Dempster was a great pitcher in 2008, and newly acquired pitcher Jake Peavy won the National League Cy Young in 2007, but neither one is that pitcher anymore.
As the regular season goes on the Red Sox are still hanging on to first place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays constantly knocking on the door. When the playoffs arrive, the Red Sox do not have a dominant starter that they could throw out there against someone like David Price or Max Scherzer and expect to win the matchup, but they have a lot of guys who can keep them in it if the offense holds up their end of the deal. Acquiring Peavy from the Chicago White Sox gave them depth in the starting rotation in case Bucholz does not return, but they still do not have someone with as electrifying stuff as Bucholz. The best hope is that the guys they have elevate to another level in the playoffs, although only Lester and Lackey have any kind of postseason success on their resumes.
I was sad to see Jose Iglesias go to the Detroit Tigers in the three team trade that brought Peavy to Boston, but the Red Sox are confident in the depth at shortstop and third base in their farm system. Iggy will certainly help the Detroit, who lost their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a season ending suspension for his connection o the Biogenesis scandal. Iglesias improves the Tigers’s infield defense and could take some of the load off reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera who is not the greatest defensive third baseman in baseball by anyone’s scale.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but the Red Sox are still in great position at the beginning of August. They started the month with two walk-off wins against the Seattle Mariners, and it seems like there is a different hero every night. Besides David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and the ailing Clay Bucholz, this is not a star-studded Red Sox roster, but they are making baseball fun again for the Fenway Faithful. These guys look like they actually enjoy playing baseball and it’s rubbing off on the fans. The malcontents Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford are long gone, and it’s just a hard working roster with low expectations that make us remember why baseball was fun to begin with. Ace or not, the Red Sox are still very much in it. They’ll be playing meaningful games in September and October if Clay ever wants to join them again.