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We all witnessed John Smoltz’s debut to the Red Sox Thursday night in the final game of the series against the Washington Nationals, and it wasn’t pretty.
At least, not in the first inning.
But after his nerves seemed to settle down, so did the pitching. In the four and a half innings that followed, Smoltz retired all the Nationals’ batters in fairly quick succession. Yes, he did give up six runs (five earned) and the Red Sox lost, but right now, would anyone prefer Daisuke Matsuzaka?
In case anyone’s forgotten, Dice-K had a record of 1-5 when he was put on the DL with an ERA of 8.23. Therefore, the way I see it, Smoltz is just about as good as Dice-K right now, so there’s really nowhere to go but up. Despite the first inning in which Smoltz gave up most of the runs, it wasn’t a bad first outing. Maybe if the batting lineup provided Smoltz with more run support, they would have ended up with a win (and it didn’t help that Daniel Bard gave up the three additonal runs).
Regardless of how the score turned out, I think Smoltz has the ability to round out the starting rotation for the Red Sox, and if he manages to pitch the way he did for the last few innings against the Nationals, the Red Sox pitching rotation will be tough for anyone to catch up to.
Already, Josh Beckett has been masterful, with a 3.74 ERA and a 9-3 record after Friday night’s win against the Braves. Tim Wakefield has never been better, now with a 10-3 record (tied as best in the MLB). Then there’s Jon Lester, who’s third in the AL with 106 strikeouts (fifth in all of baseball). We can’t forget Brad Penny, who currently sports a respectable 4.79 ERA and a 6-3 record. Between all of them, there’s something good happening and the right combination of things is making it work.
Granted it’s still early in the season and maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but the numbers are there. Depending on how Smoltz turns out in the starting rotation, this could be the key for the Red Sox. It will be reassuring to see that the Red Sox have options outside of Dice-K and that his absence doesn’t mean the end of the road for the Sox. With great options in the bullpen, there will be less pressure if things go wrong for the start, as so often happens. Specifically, the Sox can give Dice-K as much time as possible on the DL, as they try to get him back to where he should be.
Currently, the main reason the Sox have been consistently succesful this year has been the starting rotation, which right now has the potential to be the best in the major leagues.