Boston Red Sox turn to Joe Kelly to halt three-game slide

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 12: Red Sox Manager John Farrell pulls Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox during the 6th inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 12, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

This is not how the Red Sox wanted the second week of the 2016 season to play out.

Mired in a three-game losing streak, including their first two home games of the young season. Wednesday the Red Sox will turn to Joe Kelly to bring the slide to a halt.

It doesn’t help matters that the Red Sox are facing the lone remaining undefeated team in the majors,  the 7-0 Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles aren’t just undefeated, they’re undefeated because of their prolific offense. Baltimore leads the american league in home runs, runs scored, and ops. The two games in Boston have been a blast (literally) for Baltimore.

They’ve scored 18 runs, hit five round-trippers. Baltimore has scored 10 runs off Red Sox starters, and 8 against the bullpen. They’ve hit David Price and Craig Kimbrel, and they’ve scored runs off of Clay Buchholz, Matt Barnes and Robbie Ross Jr.

The Red Sox bullpen has worked eight innings over the two contests. John Farrell would love to get some of those guys a night off Wednesday, but to do that he’s going to need to get a solid start from Joe Kelly.

Joe Kelly, the same guy who lasted three innings and allowed seven earned runs in his first start of the year. The same Joe Kelly that started a career-high 25 games in 2015, and ended up with an ERA of 4.82, the highest of his four year career. That’s the Joe Kelly that the Red Sox will be leaning on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

This squad’s starting pitching has been a concern since before the days of pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers, as of Wednesday morning, it appears that the concerns might have been understated. The Red Sox have the highest team ERA in the AL  (5.90,) they’ve got the highest ERA among starting pitchers in all of the majors (7.32.)

Lost in the morass of mediocre pitching has been a Red Sox offense that has been every bit as good, or even better than expected.

David Ortiz is probably about two productive weeks away from a barrage of ” you aren’t really going to retire?” questions. Nine hits, seven for extra bases, three home runs, Ortiz is mashing the ball to all fields, a sign that he is without question locked-in at the plate.

Brock Holt has already matched his home run total from 2015. Hanley Ramirez is hitting .379. Mookie Betts weathered an early season slump, and is already heating up again. Tuesday Betts was 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, one RBI and a run scored.

The offense isn’t just coming around, it is one of the best in the league. That’s all the more reason for concern about the state of the pitching.

Boston has lost three in a row, and they’re under .500.

Is is still very early in the season? Yes, but it isn’t as if the Red Sox starting rotation is comprised of sleeping giants, just waiting to emerge from their offseason slumbers and morph into dominant starting pitchers.

Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello are all likely better than what they’ve shown so far but they’re probably not all that much better, and this Red Sox team needs at least one of them, and more likely two of those starters to be a lot better than what we’ve seen so far.

If that doesn’t happen soon, then the Red Sox will forced to make some tough decisions.

Do they trade at least one, and quite possibly more than one of their most cherished prospects for a top flight starter, or do they let it all play out, likely missing the playoffs for the third year in a row, and then try and add players in the coming offseason?

It is only April, but it looks like some big decisions might have to be made in the not-too-distant future.

About the Author

Ben Shapiro

Red Sox columnist for ESPN New Hampshire. Originally from Western Massachusetts, I currently live in New York City with my wife and dog.

I’ve previously written for Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and MassLive.com

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