The Boston Red Sox (27-32) are not only nine games out of first place in the American League East, they are nine games behind their pace of last year after 59 games (36-23).
The big difference is offense. Last year, the Red Sox had scored 306 runs at this point. This year: 240.
The AL East leading Blue Jays (37-24) have scored 311, best in the league. The Yankees (30-29) spent a lot of money on upgrades to their offense. They have scored the same as Boston: 240 runs (which is also the same as New York's runs total at this point last year).
Obviously, the bats have to be better for Boston. But better pitching helps, and the Red Sox throw promising right-hander Rubby De La Rosa tonight in Detroit. De La Rosa threw a four-hit shutout over 7 innings (8 K's) in his first start for Boston last week.
What if De La Rosa is too good to leave the rotation? And if Brandon Workman also works out as a starter, what becomes of the pitchers on the DL, like Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront? Doubront made a rehab appearance in Portland on Thursday. He gave up a few runs, but looked healthy and efficient. See today's column.
The Sox have pitching depth in the minors. Steven Wright is off the DL and his knuckleball is dancing. He threw 7 scoreless innings Thursday: 4 H, 3 B, 7 K. Mookie Betts, who was 3-for-6 with a HR on Wednesday, went 1-for-4 with a BB on Thursday, while playing his first Triple-A game in center field. Betts is batting .300 with a .400 OBP ... Shannon Wilkerson (.326) has adjusted well to Triple-A after 12 games. He went 2-for-3 Thursday.
After Doubront threw 4 innings for Portland, Mike McCarthy came in and threw four innings of one-hit ball (a double by the first batter he faced, who McCarthy then picked off). McCarthy (5-2, 4.44) struck out two ... Blake Swihart (.302) was 2-for-4.
Keith Couch (7-0) starts for Portland tonight at 7.
Salem completed a suspended game and Reed Gragnani (.339) had two doubles and a walk (.427 OBP) ... RHP Justin Haley (5-2, 1.96) pitched the second game: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K. Haley is a sixth-round draft pick out of Fresno State in 2012.
Speaking of the draft, the Red Sox went with high school kids with their first two picks and then a college first baseman.