John Tomase

Andrew Bailey's dominant Red Sox pitching staff is getting ridiculous

It's getting harder to write off this strong start as a fluke.

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Reading the Red Sox ERAs from starters on down feels like something out of the 1908 baseball encyclopedia: 1.60, 1.35, 3.04 (you're cut), 1.96, 1.65, 0.82, 1.86, 0.52, 1.50.

But instead of guys named Deacon, Elmer, Addie, Three-Finger, and Dutch, we're talking about Tanner, Kutter, Cooper, and Greg. Most of all, we're talking about pitching coach Andrew Bailey.

It has now been more than a month, and the Red Sox pitching staff – its starters in particular – remains on an incredible pace. On Tuesday night, while most of you were watching the Bruins find another way to lose a potential clincher in overtime, the Red Sox kept rolling, rolling, rolling.

They beat the Giants 4-0 to conclude April with their league-leading sixth shutout. This time the win went to Cooper Criswell, a seemingly minor $1 million signing who opened the season as pretty much the entirety of the organization's starting depth.

Despite possessing one of the slowest fastballs in baseball and rarely producing the swing-and-miss that every team covets, Criswell limited the Giants to two hits over five innings. He allowed only two hard-hit balls on a night when Giants counterpart Logan Webb, last year's National League Cy Young runner-up, served up 12.

This is getting hard to write off as a fluke. The Red Sox own the best starter's ERA (2.00) and team ERA (2.59) in baseball. Doing it without primary offseason acquisition Lucas Giolito, as well as injured starters Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, and Brayan Bello, defies reason.

"We expect to be consistent," countered manager Alex Cora to reporters, including Ian Browne of

"I know that every single night, we feel very comfortable where we're going to be pitching-wise. Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves. But for me, this is not because of what we did in April. I felt very comfortable in spring training. We pitched well in spring training, all the guys. I can't recall somebody that struggled, and it's a testament of the program, it's a testament of the guys putting in the work."

It's a testament to Bailey, too. Criswell appears to be another success story, and we're losing count of those. On Bailey's watch, Tanner Houck looks like an ace, Kutter Crawford looks like an All-Star, and everyone else looks like they belong. It's staggering that one coach could have such an outsized impact, but here we are.

Criswell might be Exhibit A of what Bailey preaches. He barely broke 89 mph on Tuesday, but everything he throws moves, especially east-west. Criswell threw 20 sweepers that averaged 76 mph, but the best ones broke nearly two feet, setting up a sinking fastball that froze Giants hitters for 12 called strikes.

"I think he's got good stuff," Giants third baseman Matt Chapman told Browne. "Obviously it's not the jump-off-the-chart fastball power stuff, but he still knows how to command the baseball and keep guys off balance, and that's just as tricky."

The Red Sox are a surprising 17-13, and while the bats have recently come alive, most notably outfielder Wilyer Abreu, they're only 2.5 games out of first place because of their pitching. They've allowed no more than two runs in a staggering 14 of their 30 games, and not surprisingly, they're 12-2 in those contests.

They hope to return to full strength shortly. Pivetta will make a rehab start this week and could return from a flexor strain next week. Fellow righty Brayan Bello (lat strain) should be right behind him. Garrett Whitlock looks like he'll take longer as he recovers from an oblique strain, but Criswell's presence means the Red Sox can weather that storm.

Their playoff odds, which started the season somewhere around zero, have already crept over 37 percent. The Rays finally look vulnerable, the Jays keep playing below the sum of their parts, and the rest of the American League is wide open, with the Royals currently owning a wild card spot and the Astros in last place.

If the Red Sox keep pitching like something from the turn of the last century, they'll be right there in the playoff hunt, too.

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