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Alex Speier

Starters stepping up for Red Sox

David Price allowed just one run through six innings to get the win in Baltimore Wednesday night.Getty Images

There was a time, not long ago, when the Red Sox had more disaster starts than any team in the American League. A 9-8 loss against the Tigers on July 26, set in motion by an eight-run flop by Steven Wright, marked the Sox’ 30th instance in 98 games in which a starting pitcher had allowed five or more runs.

To that point, the Sox rotation had a 4.72 ERA, with the shortcomings of the last two spots in the rotation making it difficult for the team to sustain a high level of play even with strong performances by Wright and Rick Porcello and solid if less-than-ace-like work from David Price. The starting shortcomings seemed to present a considerable threat to the team’s chances of reaching the postseason.

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Three weeks later, the outlook has changed. The Red Sox rotation is amidst a stretch in which it’s been leading the team through the proverbial dog days, a pattern that continued with a six-inning, one-run performance by Price that helped lead the Sox past the Orioles, 8-1.

Since July 27, Red Sox starters have held opponents to three or fewer runs in 18 of 21 starts while forging a collective 7-4 record and 2.85 ERA. In four instances, the rotation turned over a lead to the bullpen only to see the relievers blow a lead en route to a loss, something that has limited the Sox from a potentially massive run. Still, the team’s 12-9 record over the last 21 games – at a time when its offense and bullpen have both shown inconsistency – shows a team that, for perhaps the first time this year, is being led by its starting staff.

“We’re in a good run where our rotation, our starters, are doing a good job of keeping games under control. We’ve been able to manage any kind of damage, we’ve been able to put up some low-run outings pretty consistently here. And that’s been the biggest key,” manager John Farrell told reporters. “To give us a chance to win the low-run game, come back if we’ve been down a run or two. It’s not a big hole to dig out of. Our starters have set the tone in this stretch.”

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As a group, the starters have been aggressive in attacking the strike zone. The rotation has walked two or fewer batters in 17 of the 21 starts, with 7.5 strikeouts per nine and just 2.3 walks per nine. Eduardo Rodriguez (2.67 ERA, 30 strikeouts, 9 walks, 27 innings) and Drew Pomeranz (3.70 ERA, 21 strikeouts, 11 walks, 24 1/3 innings) have solidified the back end of the rotation. Over a four-start span, Porcello (2.25 ERA, 21 strikeouts, 2 walks, 32 innings) is carving the strike zone in elite fashion. Price (2.91 ERA, 26 strikeouts, 7 walks, 34 innings) has likewise been a workhorse. The combination of Wright and, in his absence, Clay Buchholz has likewise been solid (2.95 ERA for the duo in three starts).

Over the current six-game winning streak, Sox starters have a 2.43 ERA with 30 strikeouts and eight walks in 37 innings. It’s been the sort of performance that has rendered logistics and geography irrelevant through the team’s most taxing stretch of the season, and that offers a glimpse into what might be possible for the Sox going forward if their rotation can sustain the sort of consistency that it’s now shown the ability to delivery over the last three weeks.

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“It’s all on the starting pitching,” Price told reporters. “We’ll go as far as the starters take us.”


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.