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Worry arrives early in Red Sox Nation

4/4/2011

Things are so bleak in Red Sox Nation that my friend Mike -- a big Sox fan -- sent me a note saying, “Bartolo Colon would be our staff ace.”

The Red Sox postgame show following Sunday’s sweep to the Rangers began with the sign-on, “The season is not over.”

And now a stat that will scare the crap out of the Nation, even more than John Lackey's first start: Of the past 80 playoff teams, only three have started 0-3.

So there you go, Red Sox fans: You still have a 3.75 percent chance of making the playoffs.

After getting outscored 26-11 and out-homered 11-3 in Texas, Dustin Pedroia told ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, “We got outplayed. It's not for lack of talent on our team. We got outpitched, we got outhit, they played better defense than us, they kicked our [butts], that’s it.”

That pretty much sums it up. It was an ugly weekend, and now Sox fans have to nervously await Josh Beckett's first start on Tuesday in Cleveland. Meanwhile, they can spend two days arguing the merits of manager Terry Francona’s decision to have Carl Crawford hit seventh on Sunday.

Now, the good news: It’s three games!

For example:

  • The 2009 Sox lost their second, third and fourth games, and then their sixth, seventh and eighth in a 2-6 start. They later had losing streaks of five and six games (twice) and finished 95-67 and won the wild card.

  • The 2008 Sox lost three straight during the first week and had two streaks of five losses. They finished 95-67 and won the wild card.

  • The 2007 Sox had six streaks of at least three losses in a row. They won the World Series.

  • The 2004 Sox had four streaks of at least three losses in a row. You may have heard that they won the World Series, too.

So don’t panic, Red Sox fans. The season is far from lost. Nothing that a series in Cleveland won’t fix.

It is fun watching you squirm, however.

SERIES OF THE WEEK

Philadelphia at Atlanta

Friday: Cliff Lee versus Tim Hudson

Saturday: Roy Oswalt versus Brandon Beachy

Sunday: Cole Hamels versus Derek Lowe

Those are the projected matchups because the Braves haven’t announced their rotation, with Jair Jurrjens heading to the DL. They could call up Mike Minor and start him one of the games if they want a left-hander to face Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.

Anyway, the Phillies beating up on the Astros and the Braves taking two of three from the Nationals doesn’t tell us much. Roy Halladay, Lee and Oswalt may yet form three-fifths of the greatest rotation ever created, but holding the Astros to six runs over 19 innings is pretty much to be expected even if the three pitchers were Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia and Ross Ohlendorf. (Relax, Phillies fans, that’s a knock on the Astros lineup, not your terrific trio.) The Phillies will start two lefties, so it will be interesting how Atlanta’s young left-handed duo of Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman square off against them. Heyward hit just .249 AVG/.356 OBP/.399 SLG against lefties as a rookie.

PITCHING MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Friday: Colby Lewis versus Zach Britton (Texas at Baltimore)

I’m not only drinking the Orioles’ Kool-Aid, I’ve ordered a year’s supply because I’m along for the ride. OK, I’m a little excited over a 3-0 start, which is why this matchup is a must-see. Britton is Baltimore’s rookie lefty who excelled in his major league debut on Sunday with six innings of three-hit baseball. He throws a power sinker and keeps everything at the knees. Let’s see how he does in his second start against a tough lineup and facing Lewis -- who is out to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke and had a solid first start against Boston.

THREE SWINGS

1. How many starts can the Angels afford to give Scott Kazmir? The ace of the Tampa team that reached the 2008 World Series, Kazmir is just 27, but his career has taken the turn of another young power lefty, Steve Avery. Maybe Kazmir had too many innings at an early age (he reached the majors when he was 20), but he is a shell of his former self. His strikeout rate, once 10.4 per nine innings, dropped all the way to 5.6 in 2010. He was terrible in spring training and couldn’t get out of the second inning on Sunday.

2. In an opening weekend with blown save after blown save, the best relief performance belonged to 21-year-old Kansas City rookie Tim Collins, a 5-foot-7 lefty -- he may actually be shorter -- who pitched three scoreless innings to get the win on Sunday. He struck out five, which is nothing new: his career K rate in the minors was 13.3. Despite that success, he has gone from Toronto to Atlanta to Kansas City. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on -- and to root for.

3. Two interesting starts for Seattle this week: Erik Bedard, who looked good this spring, starts Monday in Texas against Alexi Ogando. Michael Pineda makes his major league debut on Tuesday.

RANT OF THE WEEK

Yes, batting orders can be over-analyzed and over-scrutinized, but this is much is clear: You should bat your best hitters at the top of the lineup for the obvious reason that they get more at-bats. Studies show that each spot in the order is worth about 18 plate appearances over the course of the season. Which is why Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez needs to come to his senses and move Heyward out of the six-hole and up higher. He’s the team’s best hitter and he’s already lost two PAs through three games.

PHOTO OF THE DAY