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Shelled Sox starters may need new slogan

BALTIMORE -- Those Clay Buchholz-created, “I’m the Ace, He’s the Ace” T-shirts can still be put to good use, but probably not in the way envisioned by the Boston Red Sox starting pitchers when they broke them out in Florida.

At the moment, a donation to Goodwill might be in order, as the shirts clearly aren’t fitting the way they were intended. The way things have gone in the season’s first three weeks, Buchholz & Co. might want to shop for a different talisman, since this one certainly has not had the desired effect.

For the second time in four starts Sunday, left-hander Wade Miley failed to last the third inning, driven from the mound in an 18-7 loss to the Baltimore Orioles after allowing as many runs (seven) as he registered outs. That’s the second time that has happened to Miley in just 11 days.

One month into his American League incarnation, and Miley already is assured of the worst month of his career (8.62 ERA), hardly what Sox GM Ben Cherington envisioned when he traded for the 28-year-old left-hander, then signed him to a three-year, $19.25 million contract extension before he’d thrown his first pitch for Boston.

"It’s just embarrassing," Miley said. "I know I’m better than this."

Problem is, Boston fans don’t, having just passing acquaintance with his work in Arizona. They’re judging him by what they’re seeing now, and it doesn’t jibe with the sinkerballing innings-eater that was sold to them at the time of his acquisition.

Overall, the Red Sox's rotation weighs in with a 5.75 ERA, which ranks last in the majors and masks the fact that there have been some good efforts in the mix. The good outings have been outnumbered by the stinkers: six outings in which the starter has given up five runs or more, four starts in 19 games in which the starter has not lasted five innings.

Miley pitched well in his previous start, against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Trop, shutting out the Rays on three hits in 5 2/3 innings while consistently commanding the strike zone with first-pitch strikes.

But on Sunday, after giving up a run in the second inning when Mookie Betts lost a fly ball in the sun for a two-base error, Miley’s compass went haywire in the third. He threw 11 balls in a span of 12 pitches, which included consecutive four-pitch walks to Manny Machado and Adam Jones.

The walk to Jones forced in a run. Delmon Young followed with an RBI single, Chris Davis doubled over Betts’s head to score two more runs, his liner turning Betts around, and Steve Pearce blooped a jam-shot single for another run.

The Orioles sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, a feat they duplicated in the seventh when they tacked on six more runs against reliever Heath Hembree.

"I just have to do a better job," said Miley, a stance that will not foment any dissent. "We have an offense that’s going to score runs. I’ve got to do a better job managing the game.

"It’s obviously not fun going out and letting that happen, what happened today."

Manager John Farrell dismissed a question about whether he might be contemplating taking Miley out of the rotation, noting the game had just ended. That would hardly seem to be an option the Sox would be considering just four starts into the season, especially given their investment in Miley.

But Farrell did not mince words about the quality of performance he witnessed Sunday, his disappointment not assuaged by Pablo Sanodval’s first home run in a Sox uniform, Hanley Ramirez’s two home runs, Dustin Pedroia’s three hits or Brock Holt’s five times on base (two hits, three walks).

"The thing I will say in general is we’ve got to do better in all phases of the game," Farrell said of a team that returns home after a 2-4 trip to face the Toronto Blue Jays, "and it starts with how we keep a game under control from the mound. That wasn’t the case today."