Sports

Nick Cafardo | On baseballl

Plenty of room for improvement on Red Sox roster

Manager John Farrell took the ball from Wade Miley in the third inning after another poor effort by a Red Sox starter.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Manager John Farrell took the ball from Wade Miley in the third inning after another poor effort by a Red Sox starter.

BALTIMORE — The 2015 Red Sox are capable of a lot of things, including getting absolutely demolished as they were Sunday, 18-7, by the Orioles, losing two out of three at Camden Yards.

They have won close games, lost close games. They have won blowouts and lost walkoffs. They have pitched gems and they have pitched stinkers as Wade Miley did on Sunday, the second time he’s done that.

They have had timely hitting and they haven’t hit when it counted.

Advertisement

In 19 games, they’ve done it all.

Get Sports Headlines in your inbox:
The most recent sports headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

They have been outscored, 102-95, this season, a negative-seven run differential.

When you think about it, this is such an unpredictable team as it resumes its American League East tour (22 straight games against AL East teams, a run that started on April 17) at home against the Blue Jays and Yankees this week.

“How about the American League East?” said Orioles general manager Dan Duquette. “I guess everyone has something they can talk about.”

The Red Sox are 6-7 against the AL East.

Advertisement

Duquette can talk about Jimmy Paredes, his waiver-wire prize, all day. He’s been a monster since coming off the disabled list on April 18, with eight of his 15 hits going for extra bases.

But let’s discuss the 10-9 Red Sox, who had spent 18 of the first 20 days of the season in first place before Tampa Bay knocked them off the top with a win against Toronto to improve to 11-8.

Right now, and it may change, we’re not sure the Red Sox have a closer they can depend on. Koji Uehara’s velocity is down about 3 miles per hour across the board with his splitter and fastball. The Phillies are trying to hook the Red Sox on bringing back Jonathan Papelbon.

I don’t want to keep bringing up Andrew Miller, but in the immortal words of former WBZ sports anchor Bob Lobel, “Why can’t we get players like these?”

Miley, who has an 8.62 ERA, hasn’t pitched six innings yet, and, for the second time in his short Red Sox career, wasn’t able to get out of the fourth, and, in this case, he wasn’t able to get out of the third inning. He said he was “embarrassed” by the way he pitched, including throwing nine straight balls at one point.

Advertisement

Miley is a tempo pitcher and once he gets out of tempo, he loses it fast. He allowed five hits and seven runs in 2 innings. He’s pitched 5 innings or less in six straight starts dating to Sept. 21.

It has been a helter-skelter starting rotation, that has been last or next to last in starters’ ERA for most of the season.

Clay Buchholz, with the second-lowest starters’ ERA on the staff (4.84) may be the ace, but a dependable one?

Rick Porcello, a 6.48 ERA, also seems to hit walls during his outings. There’s no continuity there yet.

Joe Kelly, with the lowest starters’ ERA at 4.08, has looked the best, but he, too, lost it completely in the sixth inning in his last outing, after dominating with a 97-99 mile-per-hour fastball.

Overall, Sox starters are 6-6 with a 5.75 ERA. Relievers are 4-3 with a 3.91 ERA after starting the week with a 2.45 ERA.

The bullpen is starting to get taxed.

Matt Barnes came up from Pawtucket, where he had been starting, pitched well for a couple of innings Saturday, was sent back down Sunday for Heath Hembree, who got his work in garbage time, allowing six runs in his 1 innings.

It was positive that Justin Masterson went seven innings Saturday night and that manager John Farrell is pushing his starters in that direction. But for every Masterson (5.16 ERA), there is a Miley and those short stints are killers for the Sox bullpen. There likely will be another bullpen move made before Monday’s game.

Craig Breslow, once a prominent pitcher in this bullpen, is used more and more as a mop-up man. Alexi Ogando is the flavor of the day. He has great stuff, including a 95-m.p.h. heater that he’s locating. He’s been nasty. And Junichi Tazawa (one earned run in nine innings), is steady as he goes, and probably the most underrated pitcher on the team. He appeared in 142 games the previous two years, and has started out well again this season.

Even the hitting is all over the map.

Mookie Betts, the young darling of the Sox lineup as leadoff hitter and center fielder, is hitting .189.

Dustin Pedroia started out like gangbusters, slowed recently, but had three hits in Sunday’s loss to raise his average to .267.

David Ortiz, who had the day off Sunday, homered on Saturday but is still in search of that stroke that makes him so feared. He’s hitting .194.

Pablo Sandoval hit a three-run homer Sunday, his first, but he’s 0 for 17 righthanded.

Nobody has hit the ball harder than Hanley Ramirez, who has been the most consistent offensive performer through 19 games. He’s been robbed of hits, having smacked the ball many times on the button with nothing to show for it.

Ramirez homered twice Sunday, his seventh and eighth homers, and knocked in four runs, giving him 17 RBIs for the season while hitting .300 for a 1.002 OPS.

Mike Napoli got off to a bad start (.169, one home run), while Allen Craig (.129) can’t seem to get untracked. Shane Victorino is back on the disabled list.

Xander Bogaerts started poorly, got hot, slumped again, and now is back on track with a big home run on Saturday night.

Ryan Hanigan has proven to be a tough out (even with a .195 average) and a good defender.

Brock Holt (.457, 8 RBIs in 35 at-bats) has been in a world of his own. Two more hits Sunday playing left field. He’s no Billy Goodman, who won an American League batting title for the Red Sox in 1950 with a .354 average playing five positions, but certainly a very good modern all-purpose player.

Duquette is right, there is something to talk about with every team in the AL East. And it’s good and bad for every team. Each team has had its bursts of success, and each team has had its bad stretches.

“We’ve got to do better in all phases of the game,” Farrell said.

That’s the understatement of the year.

The sum of the good and bad for the Red Sox is this: 10-9.

“You are,” in the words of Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells, “what your record says you are.”

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.