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Monday, April 25, 2011
Red Sox starting pitchers on historic run

By Jeremy Lundblad

It might be time to dust off that 1918 chant. Only this time, Boston Red Sox fans can provide the soundtrack.

You have to go back that far to find the last time the starting rotation was this dominant over a nine-game stretch.

Since April 16, Boston’s starting pitchers have combined for a 0.88 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the lowest ERA for the Red Sox rotation over any nine-game span since July 1918 (0.84).

On the way to a World Series title, that 1918 Red Sox pitching staff posted a 2.31 ERA. Carl Mays (2.21 ERA), Bullet Joe Bush (2.11) and Sad Sam Jones (2.25) anchored a rotation that also included a 23-year-old left-hander named Babe Ruth (2.22).

It’s always good for a pitching staff to draw comparisons to the dead-ball era. The league ERA in 1918 was 2.77, compared with 3.95 thus far in 2011.

Just how different were things offensively 93 years ago? Ruth led the Red Sox with 11 home runs. The rest of the team combined for four.

Back to the present day though, where the rotation’s current stretch of dominance is all the more improbable given what preceded it.

Entering this nine-game stretch, the rotation had a 6.71 ERA through 12 games. But after allowing just six earned runs over their last 61 1/3 innings, Red Sox starters have chopped nearly three runs off their ERA. Their 3.84 ERA now ranks sixth in the American League.

Last season, the fewest earned runs allowed by the starters over nine games was 13, more than twice the total (six) since April 16.

Opponents hit .317 with runners in scoring position against Red Sox starters in the first 12 games of 2011. Since then? Just .030.

On April 16, Josh Beckett allowed a single to Travis Snider with a man on second. Since then, opponents are 0-for-32 with RISP against Red Sox starters.

In all, opponents are hitting .159 with a .455 OPS against Red Sox starters since April 16. (Amazingly, the Marlins’ rotation has held opponents to a .152 average in the same span, albeit in two fewer games.)

Just how much longer can Red Sox starters pitch like it's 1918?

Tuesday’s series opener against the Orioles sets up nicely for the hot stretch to continue.

Baltimore didn’t score a run in 15 innings against Clay Buchholz in 2010. In all, he is 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA in his career against the Orioles. That includes his 2007 no-hitter and shutout in 2010.