By Joe Barron
Since returning from an extremely disappointing road trip, the Red Sox have played slightly better at home, winning 3 of 5 games. Last night's 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins has the half-full glass drinkers smiling. The statistic that continues to plague the team this year, however, is their win-loss record of games decided by 1 run. Already in the first 70 games of the 2014 season, the Red Sox have played in 24 games decided by 1 run. Of those 24 games, the Red Sox have won 9-24 (.375). During the fabled 2013 season, the Red Sox were famous for their strong starting pitching, a consistent bullpen, and clutch hitting in close games. This year has been far less consistent.
As far as I am concerned, Clay Buccholz is a non-factor for the rest of the season. I really hope he is able to make some sort of positive contribution, as I have definitely enjoyed watching him pitch at Fenway, but since the second half of last season, he as been a huge liability more than anything. His confidence is shot. When is it time to pull the plug and seriously consider moving forward with the young guys? They are hungry and starting to perform.
The player that intrigues me the most is Brandon Workman. At only 25 years old, the sky is the limit. He has shown that he can handle the pressure of close and important games, marveling in the 2013 postseason as rookie. In the 2013 postseason, Workman appeared in 7 games, pitched 8.2 innings, and gave up 7 hits and only 1 run (unearned). He was able to get key outs when called upon and pitched a perfect 8th in the memorable Game 6 World Series clincher at home. Not many young players can list that on their resume this early in their career, especially in a city like Boston where the pressure is always looming.
This season, Workman is 1-0 in 5 starts and 3 relief appearances, posting an impressive 2.88 ERA. He continues to provide quality starts and has been putting the Sox in a position to win games. If Workman and young stud, Ruby De La Rosa can solidify the bottom of the rotation, there will be even less pressure on Jake Peavy to perform. Peavy's W-L record is deceptive, as he has had some really gutsy performances this year spoiled by bullpen mistakes. Peavy may not be the ace is once was, but he can still very productive at the bottom of the rotation.
If the Sox had won even just 12 of those 24 games (.500), they would be at 35-35 and right in the heat of the AL East race. Maybe if that starting pitcher hadn't given up that home run or the bullpen didn't give up a few late inning hits, we'd be talking differently. Instead of win steaks and losing steaks, the team needs to focus on one game at a time, making quality plays, and focusing on winning series. There's still a lot of the season left to play. There have been growing pains for the young guys, but they're continuing to get better and the Sox are finally starting to get healthy.
Seen still carrying the lucky Native American statue into the park before games, Peavy definitely still believes in this team. There's no reason you should give up on these guys quite yet.