By giving up highly regarded minor league pitcher Anderson Espinoza to the San Diego Padres, the Boston Red Sox seemingly paid a steep price for Drew Pomeranz in mid-July of the 2016 season. So, when Pomeranz struggled to close out the year with a 4.59 ERA and was relegated to the bullpen for the 2016 playoffs, Red Sox Nation’s frustration with the aggressive trading strategy of President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was loud and clear.

Oh, how things change with time.

In 2017, Pomeranz’s solid work as a number-two starter has provided Boston’s pitching staff with the stability that it has needed to post the best team ERA in the AL. His 3.36 ERA and 9.47 K/9 ratio place him among the top pitchers in the AL, and ESPN’s Cy Young Award Predictor even has him ranked sixth in the AL race for the prestigious award. Of course, Boston’s ace Chris Sale ranks first in these rankings with his 2.70 ERA and mind-boggling 12.68 K/9 ratio, but dominance was expected out of the pitcher who finished no lower than sixth in AL Cy Young voting from 2012-2016. What was not expected was 2016 staff ace Rick Porcello and $217 Million Man David Price both taking a back seat to Pomeranz, who this year has displayed the talent that made him a 2016 NL All-Star with the Padres.

Even better is the fact that Pomeranz’s season seems to be trending upward, as his best play has been in recent months. He finished June and July with monthly ERAs of 3.00 and 2.72, respectively, and threw 6.1 innings of one-run ball to begin August on a high note against the Chicago White Sox.

This consistent pitching has come at a time when other members of Boston’s rotation have been anything but consistent. After winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2016 to the surprise of many fans, Porcello has seemingly fallen off a cliff this year, posting a less-than-stellar 4.70 ERA and allowing 1.61 HR per 9 innings (12th worst in the majors). And while Price has been decent while on the field (3.82 ERA), being on the field has been a bit of a problem for the southpaw who began the season injured and was recently placed on the disabled list once again (although fans and the media have been left to wonder if Price’s current DL stint has less to do with an injury and more to do with public outcry over his reported outburst at Red Sox broadcaster and Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley).

Pomeranz’s pitching has also allowed young lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to comfortably remain in the middle of the rotation, which has helped Rodriguez ease back from his midseason injury. Rodriguez had a few rough starts after coming back from the DL in July, but he impressed in his latest start by giving up just two earned runs in six innings of work.

Who knows, maybe Price and Porcello will each take a page out of Pomeranz’s book and bounce back from the harsh criticism that they are currently facing. They have both shown flashes of their former dominant selves this year, as Price and Porcello had ERAs of 2.52 and 3.06, respectively, in the month of July.

As the MLB season enters its stretch run and the Red Sox sit atop the AL East Standings, the team can feel confident in the top of its rotation’s ability to get the job done, thanks in part to the solid pitching of Pomeranz. The Yankees and Rays can keep clawing away at Boston, but a red-hot offense and shutdown pitching should once again allow the team to repeat as AL East Champions — and hopefully more.

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