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Opening Day was everything the Boston Red Sox wished and planned for after the offseason. Wednesday’s game? Affirmation of everything that Red Sox fans were worried about coming into this season.
One day after David Price struck out 10 batters to show why the Red Sox signed him as the new ace and face of the pitching staff, Clay Buchholz surrendered five earned runs over four laborious innings. If anyone personifies the giant question mark that is the backend of the rotation after Price, it is Buchholz.
Last season, the Red Sox forewent the idea of having an ace to anchor the rotation, in large part counting on Buccholz to both pitch to his capabilities and remain healthy. Neither happened.
After a rough start (5.76 ERA in April), Buchholz started to round into form approaching the All-Star break, only to strain his throwing elbow and miss the rest of the season.Though he ended with a 3.26 ERA, Buchholz made only 18 starts and pitched just 113.1 innings.
That prompted Dave Dombrowski to target Price as his reliable #1 starter and push Buchholz back into the #2 slot. But given his injury history and inconsistent performance, Buchholz remained a question mark. For the Red Sox to avoid another disappointing season and make the worst to first leap, the Red Sox front office and fan base alike were counting on Buchholz to return to his All-Star form of 2010, when he was able to combine reliability (173.2 innings over 28 starts) with consistency (2.33 ERA with 19 quality starts).
Five runs, six hits, four strikeouts, and three walks over four innings? Not exactly what the Red Sox had in mind for Buchholz’s first start of 2016 and the follow-up act to Price’s debut.
Never mind that the Red Sox offense put together a four-run sixth inning to take a (brief) lead and get Buchholz off the hook for the loss (before Junichi Tazawa served up a go-ahead bomb to former Red Sox hero Mike Napoli). After scoring the fourth-most runs in all of Major League Baseball last season, we knew that this year’s Red Sox, with Mookie Betts and Xanders Bogaerts a year older and David Ortiz anchoring the lineup, were going to score runs. That question already had an answer before today.
The question still in doubt: Can the rest of the starting rotation pitch well enough for the Red Sox to win when Price isn’t on the mound?
Yes, it’s only one start, but after Wednesday the Red Sox are still no closer to answering the questions surrounding their rotation. The longer the doubt lingers, the clearer the answer becomes.