Takeaways: Red Sox Rotation thriving

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Takeaways from the Big A, where the Sox visit just once a year but learned first-hand that this Trout guy is pretty good:

• The revamped starting rotation, minus the firm of Lester, Lackey and Peavy, has performed admirably in the first six games of this trip. Sox starters have a 2.80 ERA (12 earned runs in 40 innings pitched), with four of those starts going at least six innings and three seven innings or more.

All six games, it should be noted, have come against quality competition, the Cardinals and Angels both in contention for playoff spots. Rubby De La Rosa has given up just one earned run in each of his two starts (13 innings), the newly acquired Joe Kelly gave up one in seven innings, Allen Webster gave up two in 6 2/3 innings in the series opener here, and Clay Buchholz gave up two first-inning runs and a home run to Mike Trout in the last inning of his strong eight-inning stint Saturday night.

The most hits allowed by a Sox starter on this trip is six, and there have been only three home runs allowed, two hit by Trout. The other was hit by Kolten Wong of the Cardinals on Thursday night off Brandon Workman, who also gave up a walk-off home run to Albert Pujols in a relief appearance in the 19th inning Saturday night. Workman is the only Sox starter on the trip who had a rough outing, giving up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, but even he settled down after the first inning, in which he gave up three runs on four hits.

• De La Rosa gave the Sox bullpen a much needed break after manager John Farrell used nine pitchers in Saturday’s marathon loss.

“I think more than anything he’s pitching with an awful lot of confidence,” Farrell said. “He’s maintaining his stuff deep into games.”

De La Rosa was sent back to the team hotel during Saturday’s marathon, and said he fell asleep before it had ended.

“Such a late game, it was hard on everybody except for me,” he said. “I knew I had to be strong.”

• The Sox have split the first six games of this trip despite scoring a total of 17 runs, no more than four in any game. They are batting a collective .173 (39 for 226), with 57 whiffs (13 Sunday) and 15 walks, a dozen extra-base hits, including home runs by Mike Napoli Friday and Yoenis Cespedes Sunday.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s hitless streak (0 for 35) is now the longest in the majors this season.

Bradley returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Thursday and for only the second time on this trip, Farrell opting to give him extra time to work with hitting coaches Greg Colbrunn and Victor Rodriguez.

Bradley, who entered the game in the eighth inning Saturday as a defensive replacement, wound up going 0 for 4, but squared up two balls, including one drive to the fence in center in the night.

But the rookie had a horrific game Sunday, striking out in all four of his plate appearances. He is now hitless in his last 35 at-bats, with 18 strikeouts, his overall average falling to .211. His last hit was a single off Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson in Tropicana Field on July 26.

The Sox are the only team in the majors to have three players with hitless streaks of 27 at-bats or more. Xander Bogaerts went 0 for 27 from June 24 to July 5.

• Those people who predicted that a return to shortstop would cure Bogaerts of all his hitting woes were sorely mistaken. Since Bogaerts was restored to short, he is 3 for 35 (.097) in nine games, with one walk and 10 strikeouts. His average has dropped to .230.

In case you were wondering, Stephen Drew, whose trade to the Yankees opened shortstop back up for Bogaerts, is 6 for 35 (.171) while playing second base for the Bombers.

• Farrell lamented the need to option Heath Hembree back to the minors after he pitched four scoreless innings of relief Saturday night in his Sox debut. Hembree was replaced on the Sox roster by Edwin Escobar, who along with Hembree had come from the Giants in the Peavy deal.

"He had the poise and the mound presence," Farrell said. "We didn't know a lot about him other than the scouting reports and watching him throw a bullpen in St. Louis. He couldn't have pitched any better given the situation."

• With David Ortiz excused after Saturday’s epic, Kelly Johnson made his Sox debut. With Mike Napoli serving as DH, Johnson played first base and went 0 for 4.

Johnson came to the Red Sox from the Yankees minutes before the July 31 trading deadline in a deal for Drew. He was on the DL at the time of the trade with a strained right groin and was activated Thursday.