Sunday April 21, 2013

BOSTON

It has been said that sports can be the salve that helps heal a community's wounds. After what transpired this past week in the city, truer words were never spoken.

Since that is the case, the Boston Red Sox have done their best to give their fans some psychic relief and good feelings.

To a degree, those good feelings come from the early-season success the Red Sox have racked up. And that early-season success has been in large measure because of the pitching staff.

Going into Saturday's game with Kansas City, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have gone 6-0. Buchholz was leading the American League with a 0.41 earned-run average and Lester has a 1.73 ERA.

Even newcomer Ryan Dempster, who is looking for his first win, has a 2.65 ERA, and he said good pitching is as contagious as good hitting can be.

"I think the nice part is, you see the other guys in the rotation go out there and pitching as well as they have," said Dempster, "even Ace [Alfredo Aceves], when he makes a start for [John Lackey] and threw the ball so well.

"You don't want to be the squeaky wheel. You want to be the one that's going out there and keeping it going. We push each other."

In the last decade, we have known the Red Sox as a team that can pitch, but has earned its stripes at the plate. This year, the Sox are only seventh in the American League in hitting, and have hit 14 home runs as a team. Only Minnesota, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Angels have hit fewer.

Boston's big successes have been on the bump by its starters.

Going into the weekend, the Red Sox led the AL with a 2.69 earned-run average. Boston's pitchers had walked only 50 while striking out 149, a nearly 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which any manager will take.

David Ross is Boston's backup catcher and a 12-year big league veteran. He caught Jeff Weaver, Kaz Ishii and Jose Lima when the Los Angeles Dodgers won the Western Division in 2007. He watched some of the great NL rotations in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Atlanta's rotation once had Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, while the Phillies throw Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay at you with regularity.

"Atlanta, when those guys get rolling -- I think we won nine in a row one time -- and guys are just hitting on all cylinders," said Ross. "I watched it with the Nationals and Philly had really good three guys. Even when they had just Hamels and Halladay, they just rolled."

Which is what Lester and Buchholz have done in the early going. Ross has caught them and has watched from the dugout.

"I just love to be a part of good staffs, because I feel like I have a say in what they're doing and I try to help them," said Ross. "It's fun for me to have really good staffs."

And as long as the guys at the top of the rotation continue to pitch well, Dempster said that the good feelings should continue to be felt down in the rotation.

"When you see how well Jonny and Buck threw in the first games, you want to go out there and do it as well," said Dempster. "We push each other. It's like a competitive push to get the best out of each other. You get good results that way."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.