Originally posted on Ted's Army  |  Last updated 7/27/13
By the time Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman strode to the mound last night at Camden Yards and fired his first pitch toward home plate, the Red Sox were clinging to a threadbare half-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. When the game ended some two-and-a-half hours later, Baltimore reliever Jim Johnson had given up one hit – one of only four the Sox would scatter among the nine frames – and the Boston nine were no longer the leaders of their AL East brethren. The Red Sox now find themselves a half-game back of the Rays in the division. The team that had led the division since late May is now in second place, just three games ahead of the third-place Orioles. For the third time in four days, a potent Red Sox lineup (the team has led the league in several significant offensive categories for much of the season thus far) was shut down by very good pitching. Tillman’s 7 IP, two-hit, eight strikeout gem last night pales next to the complete game masterpieces tossed by Rays pitchers Matt Moore and David Price recently, but the O’s starter is now 13-3 on the season – he must be doing something right. It is far from panic time, dear Friends of Fenway, but one has to wonder whether the plucky, friendly, team-oriented, bearded 2013 Sons of John Farrell are a team designed more for regular season success than playoff punch. There remain 58 games on the regular season schedule, so anything can happen. But, against playoff-caliber starters (I’m including the Rays’ Roberto “Don’t Call Me Fausto Carmona” Hernandez in this mix, despite his poor record) in the last four games, the Sox have scored just seven runs. They’ve given up 16 runs and been shut out twice. It appears the Yawkey Way brain trust is focused primarily on finding a starting pitcher (Jake Peavy? Cliff Lee?) by Wednesday’s trade deadline. There are offensive concerns GM Ben Cherington should consider, however. Cuban phenomenon Jose Iglesias has seen his batting average dip steadily since the heady days of June, when the fill-in third-baseman was hitting well above .400. We still don’t know what kind of hitter he ultimately will be in the majors. Shortstop Stephen Drew has been terrible this season. Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are streaky hitters. Both could either carry the team or hinder run production at any time. It’s hard to tell when either will occur. Meantime, the Rays and their cadre of excellent starting pitchers show no signs of slowing. Again, it’s early. Please, step away from the ledge. Ryan Dempster will take the hill tonight in Baltimore and try to right the good ship Red Sox.
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