Red Sox

Red Sox

BOSTON - The Red Sox certainly don't have five aces on their staff, but through 21 games it looks like they may have a couple jokers.

It was Clay Buchholz's turn in the rotation to disappoint, and he did just that, failing to escape the third inning while simultaneously blowing a 4-0 Red Sox lead.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, this has become the norm of the 2015 season early on. Good offense does not beat good pitching - not enough, anyways.

Buchholz allowed five runs (four earned) through 2.2 innings, giving up six hits and a walk while striking out four.

Staked to a 4-0 lead to start the third inning, Buchholz wasted no time giving it up. John Farrell had seen enough after 62 pitches, a few of which were simply left over the plate for hits. Buchholz unraveling within an inning is not news, but with the Sox still in the game, Farrell put more trust in his now-overworked bullpen to keep the team afloat over his struggling starter with a history of implosions.

The bullpen didn't come through, either, which makes you wonder if the current roster make-up even allows for a solution in this (now common) scenario.

"Well the inning got away from him, bottom line," Farrell said of Buchholz. "We scored four to give obviously a sizable lead. A leadoff walk as you look back now kind of set the tone for the inning. I thought he threw a number of quality pitches leading up to the third, but an offensive night on both sides. And even after Clay, we'd score and couldn't put up a zero to really maintain any momentum. Not a good night from the mound."

After the leadoff walk to Kevin Pillar in the third inning, Buchholz threw strikes again - but the balls were sprayed all over the field. A fastball right down the middle to Ryan Goins went for an easy single, followed by a curveball to Devon Travis that caught too much of the plate for another single. After a visit to the mound from pitching coach Juan Nieves, Buchholz was back to no good as Josh Donaldson took the eighth pitch of the at-bat, another fastball that stayed over the plate, the other way. Jose Bautista hit a sac fly to right, and Edwin Encarnacion singled in another run. Finally, Buchholz got Russell Martin looking for the second out, but when Michael Saunders took a changeup to right field, that was it.

"Whenever your team gives you a four-run lead, you're supposed to come out a lot better than that," Buchholz said. "Went out there with a gameplan to throw strikes, let them put the ball in play and get outs. Walked the first guy. All the contact that they made were, they hit the ball hard. Wasn't any of our defenders in the field. So got to do a lot better job than that."

He watched from the dugout as Edward Mujica got the third out of the inning (and proceeded to give up three runs in the fourth).

"I would have liked to stay in there a little bit longer, but that's not my call," Buchholz said. "I gotta do a better job of persuading I guess, in a way. A couple pitches that got hit hard. Like I said a couple of them I felt like they were pretty good pitches. The other ones were mistakes in the zone."

If there was a John Farrell soundboard, the button that reads "Not a good night from the mound" would be worn out in no time.

For Buchholz, it's his second rough start of the season. But it's not just him - not even close. Rick Porcello, who goes Wednesday, has given up 12 earned runs over his last two starts (11.0 IP), including eight on Apr. 19 against the Orioles. Justin Masterson blew up for seven runs in a game against the Nationals, though he's settled down since. Wade Miley hasn't gotten out of the sixth inning yet this season, and hasn't gotten out of the third inning twice, allowing 14 runs between those two starts. Joe Kelly has given up ten earned runs over this last two starts (11.0 IP).

Big innings have doomed the Sox and that was the case again Tuesday, though command wasn't an issue this time around. Still, the staff has shown little to no toughness when faced with adversity. Pitching out of jams is obviously important, and so far it's a rarity on this team. Here's a good stat by WEEI.com's John Tomase: In 33 chances, Red Sox starters have allowed runs immediately after Boston has scored 13 times. The hitters do their part, and then the staff washes it away.

"By and large it's a matter of going out and continuing to execute," Farrell said. "And there's got to be the ability to slow some hitters down knowing that after you score there's probably a ramped-up intensity by the opposition to try to answer back. That doesn't mean you pitch scared. That means you have to continue to be relentless from the mound. And we've been inconsistent with that."

Inconsistent. There's another one for the soundboard. Oh, and don't forget "minimize the damage". That's this year's version of 2010's "run prevention".

Except there's been no minimizing of anything. The Red Sox are second in the Majors with 109 runs scored . . . they're a minus-9 in run differential. That's right, the Sox are dead last in runs allowed with 118. The starters now own an eye-popping 6.02 ERA (75 ER/112 IP), obviously last in the Majors by a healthy amount.

Ans because of these Jeckyll and Hyde innings, the team has an 11-10 record to show for it.

"I don't think we've been able to string together good starts," Buchholz said of the rotation. "We definitely have had a lot of good starts. When your team goes out and scores eight runs - especially with this team - in the ball game, you're supposed to win that game. That's sort of how we look at it. We've had some lopsided games in the past couple weeks. Whenever our starting staff [struggles], I feel like we all think the same if we don't go out there and give our team a chance to win, give them six, seven innings, that's on us. I don't think anybody would veer away from that. But the game's hard sometimes. Like I said, as much as you prepare to go out there and win, sometimes you have to adapt to certain situations in the game. It's easier said than done sometimes."

Knowing where the problem lies is one thing. Being able to do something about it is another.