BOSTON (CBS) — If you were paying attention and you truly understood the impact of losing David Ortiz, you knew that the 2017 Red Sox would suffer a loss in run production. The size of that loss was debatable, but they simply were never going to be the same.

But the starting pitching?

That was supposed to be the indisputable strength of this team.

And it’s not.

Don’t look now, Red Sox followers, but Rick Porcello took it on the chin again last night in an eventual 6-5 win over the Phillies that required the Sox give max effort against the worst team in baseball. Porcello allowed 10 hits and five runs in six innings while ending up with a no-decision. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner now ranks 29th among the 42 qualifying AL pitchers in ERA and a dreadful 36th in WHIP.

If he throws it, they will hit.

But this isn’t about just Porcello.

Remember that vaunted rotation when the Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox? It currently ranks 11th among the 15 AL starting rotations in ERA. Eleventh. And that is true despite the fact that Chris Sale ranks a respectable sixth in the league in ERA and second in innings pitched. Understand? Sale weighs into the Red Sox average more than any starter short of Tampa’s Chris Archer – and the Sox still rank 11th.

Now here’s the really scary thing:

It’s getting worse.

dl rick porcello red sox phillies Mazz: Red Sox Rotation Has Fallen Well Short Of Lofty Expectations

Rick Porcello throws against the Philadelphia Phillies in the first inning at Fenway Park on June 12, 2017. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

This month, with Sale grinding, Sox starters had posted a 6.03 ERA over 11 starts. (Incredibly, they are 4-5.) During that span, they have allowed a whopping 82 hits and 15 home runs. And once the Sox are done dealing with the dreadful Phillies this week, they will travel to Houston to face an Astros club that has been laying waste to opposing pitching staffs all season.

Here’s the bottom-line: as frustrating and inconsistent as the Red Sox offense has been this season – and it has been both of those things – the pitching is a far greater problem. These Red Sox were built to win more low-scoring games than a year ago, with Sale, Porcello and David Price forming one of the best trios in the game. But Sale has really been the only member of that group to even approach expectations for 2017, and the remainder of the Boston starters have similarly failed – save for Eduardo Rodriguez, who is currently injured.

Are the Sox starters now merely in a rut? Perhaps. As is always the case in baseball, time will tell.

In the meantime, Price returns to the mound at Fenway Park tonight for the first time this year – and in the wake of an eruption at the media last week – which cannot help but make one wonder if things are about to get better … or worse.


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