Anybody else worried about the state of the Red Sox bullpen? At this moment, the Sox' ragged relievers own an aggregate ERA of 5.45, worst in the American League, second worst in baseball (thank you, D-backs).
It's wonderful that the Sox have been in first place for 40 days and 40 nights, but Aug. 27, 2005 goes down as a frightening day in Red Sox Nation. It's almost September and suddenly Sox fans are back on high alert.
Hours after learning that the annoying Yankees had scored five in the ninth to beat Kansas City (it was the Royals being the Royals), the Sox blew a 6-0 lead in a gruesome 12-8 loss to the Tigers. In honor of the departed Rolling Stones, the Tigers played ''Tattoo You" on Fenway's outfield walls, crushing eight doubles, one triple, and a grand slam in a 17-hit assault on Boston's beleaguered mound staff. The Tigers have scored 20 runs on 30 hits in two games here this weekend.
The boys in Boston's pen are taking most of the heat, but there's no merit badge for the Guitar Man, either. Bronson Arroyo was cuffed for eight hits and seven runs three days after making a relief appearance in Kansas City (which tells you more about Boston's fragile, thin staff). Arroyo was rocked for five runs in the fourth, only minutes after he was staked to a 6-0 lead. The carnage continued against the soft serves of Jonathon Papelbon, Jeremi Gonzalez, Mike Remlinger, and Mike Myers. And all this came on the day Alan Embree picked up his first win for the Yankees, while Keith Foulke pitched his first rehab assignment for the Lowell Spinners (bet old laughing-boy Foulkie is delighted to be chucking on the shores of the Merrimack).
What a beating.
''Not a real fun night," admitted Red Sox manager Terry Francona. ''But we'll bounce back. We have to. That's what we're supposed to do. I don't think anybody enjoyed that tonight, but we'll come back tomorrow."
Starting pitching is a big part of the Sox' recent problems. Boston's lack of depth in the bullpen is exposed when starters fail early in the game.
''If your starter goes deep, you skip a few innings with your bullpen, but we haven't been able to do that," admitted the manager.
It was a particularly rough night for 24-year-old Papelbon, who picked up his first big league loss, giving up four hits and a bases-loaded walk that put the boo birds on his back. Harsh.
''We've asked a lot of him this week," Francona said of Papelbon. ''He made a couple of mistakes. It's a tough situation for him."
Hmmm. Do we still want Craig Hansen -- who was pitching for St. John's in June -- thrust into a September pennant race at Fenway?
Saturday was a big night for Tiger manager Alan Trammell, who knows how hard it is to win in Fenway Park.
Trammell broke into the big leagues in Fenway in 1977, but didn't see a victory here until 1979 -- his 12th game as a Tiger in Boston.
Managing has proven no easier. As a big league skipper, Trammell was 0-11 at Fenway going into last night's game against a Sox squad that had won 14 straight home games.
It looked like both streaks would continue when the Sox vaulted to a 6-0 lead in the third, but the Tigers roared back with five in the fourth, three in the sixth, one in the seventh, and three more in the eighth.
Trammell wasn't able to watch the full nine innings of his first managerial win in Boston. The Tiger skipper was heaved in the bottom of the fourth by first base umpire Sam Holbrook. Somewhere, Ralph Houk must have been smiling.
Say this about the Tigers: They are no longer the pushovers who furnished so much fodder for ESPN in recent years. The Bengals have beaten the Sox three times in five meetings since Aug. 15. They are only three games under .500 and they wear out mediocre pitching.
Dmitri Young started last night's comeback with a first-pitch grand slam in the fourth. After that, the Tigers rattled the Green Monster with stunning regularity. Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge, and Omar Infante all hit two doubles for the visitors.
Manny Ramirez had an interesting tour-de-bases in the seventh. Manny was the only Sox starter without a hit when he came to the plate after the seventh-inning stretch. He hit a chopper toward third, streaked down the line like Carl Lewis, then saluted the crowd after crossing the base safely. When Trot Nixon followed with a single to right, Manny tore around second and needlessly dived headfirst into third (there was no throw). Manny scored easily on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly to center, this time crossing home plate in the vertical position. Weird.
The madness continues this afternoon at Fenway. Bet it will be a sellout. If you're sitting on the Monster or in the bleachers, bring your glove . . . and a hard hat.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.