BALTIMORE — The Red Sox woke up on Sept. 4 with an 84-54 record, the third-best record in baseball behind the Phillies and Yankees.
They were on a pace to win 98 games, maybe 99. They trailed the Yankees by a half-game in the division and led the Rays by nine in the wild card.
The only real question regarding the team as whether John Lackey or Erik Bedard would emerge as the Game 3 starter in a playoff series.
There were no signs — none whatsoever — that this was a team in trouble. The Red Sox were fairly healthy outside of Kevin Youkilis and while their pitching staff wasn't dominant by any means, it was certainly adequate given their powerful offense.
The Sox have lost 17 of 22 games since and everybody knows the fix they are in now.
The pitchers have a 5.70 earned run average in those 22 games with the starters going 3-12 with a 7.26 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP.
John Lackey (5 starts): 0-2, 9.13
Josh Beckett (4 starts): 1-2, 5.48
Jon Lester (4 starts): 1-3, 6.97
Tim Wakefield (4 starts): 1-2, 6.30
Kyle Weiland (3 starts): 0-2, 9.26
Erik Bedard (1 start): 0-0, 3.50
Andrew Miller (1 start): 0-1, 9.00
In baseball, everything good and bad comes back to starting pitching. Everything else is just something to talk about.
Beckett and Lester bear the large percentage of the burden for this collapse. They have started eight games since Sept. 3, going 1-5 with a 6.18 earned run average while averaging less than six innings. The Sox are 2-6 in games they have started.
As Terry Francona often says, it's not impossible to win when that happens. But it sure is hard.
Bedard tonight, Lester tomorrow. The season hinges on them at his point.