Children and their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents across New England can convene — or at least connect via Zoom — on Sunday morning and marvel that in the 120-year history of the Red Sox franchise, no one has ever borne witness to the pitching carnage currently taking place.
On Saturday night, the Red Sox sent ace Nate Eovaldi to the Yankee Stadium mound. The righthander — memorably dominant in the 2018 playoffs in New York — represented the team’s most stabilizing presence.
But the anchor could not hold. Instead, the Yankees continued their season-long thrashing of Red Sox pitching, crushing three homers off Eovaldi en route to an 11-5 victory that introduced a new level of infamy to a beleaguered pitching staff.
The Red Sox have allowed at least eight runs in six straight games, all (shockingly!) losses. That never previously occurred in the history of the franchise. If the Sox give up eight or more on Sunday, their streak of games allowing a touchdown and two-point conversion will match a major league record.
“It seems like when it rains, it pours,” said Eovaldi. “Right now, we’re all kind of going through it.”
Indeed they are, in a way that has challenged the limits of comprehension. It’s become a David Lynch movie, an exploration of whether there is something so gruesome as to become aesthetically compelling.
The gory details since Monday:
63 runs (10.9 runs per 9 innings, and tied for the most ever allowed by the Red Sox in a six-game stretch.)
55 earned runs (9.52 ERA)
.357 average/.427 on-base/.626 slugging
In 267 plate appearances and 1,049 pitches, Red Sox pitching has turned every opposing hitter into Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, a career .340/.447/.632 hitter. There have been some very talented players among the Rays and Yankees lineups, but nary a Gehrig in the bunch.
In any season, a six-game stretch along these lines would be painful. But this year, that’s 10 percent of the season, making it significantly likely the 2020 Red Sox pitching staff will distinguish itself as the worst in franchise history.
The highest ERA in franchise history is 5.02 in 1932, a dismal bunch with the worst winning percentage (43-111, .279) of all time by a Red Sox team. With Saturday’s loss, this year’s group is at 6.10, and their 6-15 record (.286) likewise has them, about 35 percent of the way through the season, in view of the standard for futility.
There are reasons for this, of course. The Red Sox pitching staff is reduced drastically by the February decision to trade David Price, the season-long losses of their two best pitchers (Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez), and the absence to this point in the season of two of their best five relievers (Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor).
Contention has become virtually impossible, a notion publicly acknowledged by chairman Tom Werner on Friday. There’s a lot of losing left in front of the team during what amounts to an ongoing audition for future (2021 and beyond) roles in three rotation spots.
“It’s not fun going out there and getting your head beat in every day,” said J.D. Martinez. “It’s hard to hit when your offense is always on the field, just tired. Whenever you’re out there for 45 minutes, 30-45 minutes before you’ve got to get in there and hit, it’s not easy.”
Resignation seems to be taking hold. On Saturday afternoon, manager Ron Roenicke tried to address the spreading atmosphere of defeat. He talked about the need to avoid getting consumed by the enormity of the team-wide struggles, and to instead focus more narrowly on executing individual pitches.
“When you make quality pitches, you get people out,” said Roenicke. “It’s no different here than in the minor leagues.”
But it is. The hitters are better, the audience is larger, and the measuring stick of 120 years of history more easily accessed. Pitchers with minor league track records of success are not necessarily equipped to handle elite big-league hitters, a notion the Red Sox have encountered in game after game after game.
Several hours and 11 runs after delivering his pep talk to the pitchers, Roenicke could do little but shake his head. Optimism had been drained by yet another dismantling.
“It’s just tough when you send Nate out there and he gets hit,” he said. “Just, it’s hard.”
Indeed it is. And as difficult as it has been for the Red Sox staff to compete to this point, an ominous date looms on the horizon: By August 31, the team may well deal some of its best pitchers.
The bottom may still be to come.