The Red Sox entered play on Monday tied with the Yankees atop the division. And with the Oakland Athletics (and David Ortiz) in town, the Yankees with the day off, and a 5-0 Rick Porcello on the mound, this was as good an opportunity as any for Boston to regain sole possession of first place. But Matt Olson, Matt Joyce, and Khris Davis had other ideas. The three sluggers each contributed a home run in support of Oakland starter Sean Manaea who came in with a 2.11 ERA. Manaea tossed a no-hitter against Boston back on April 21st but was not nearly as sharp last night, working to the tune of 6 IP and 4 ER. Nonetheless, Boston starter Rick Porcello surrendered 5 runs over those same 6 innings and suffered his first loss of the season. The righty has seen his ERA jump from 2.14 to 3.28 over his last two starts.
Recent pitching woes are not exclusive to Porcello, as Red Sox starters have worked to a 4.80 ERA over their last 22 games. This coming on the heels of a 2.17 starter's ERA in the team's first 19 games of the season. If the rotation continues to struggle like this, I could envision a scenario in which Alex Cora gives a spot start to either Brian Johnson (who was moved to the bullpen in favor of a healed-up Eduardo Rodriguez) or Steven Wright (who just finished serving a 15-game suspension). Wright has plenty of experience as a starter, and his knuckleball is more valuable in longer stints anyway. Johnson has made just one start this year, but made the most of his time in the rotation last season.
The "Sean Manaea Effect" has resulted in Boston playing .500 baseball (11-11 record) since they were no-hit by the lefty last month. Of course, we cannot blame Manaea for doing his job well, but the Red Sox certainly haven't been the same team since that time. This stretch of mediocre baseball has coincided with the Yankees going 19-3 over their last 22 games. With The Rivalry not scheduled to be renewed until the end of next month, there is plenty of time for these two teams to go up or down. But one thing that continues to linger in my mind is the very real possibility that either the Red Sox or Yankees will end up in the Wild Card Game. A one-game playoff scenario for one of the two best teams in baseball seems almost unfair, but there is a long way to go and anything can happen in the dog days of summer.