When the Red Sox take the field at Minute Maid Park on Monday night, they do so with the chance to equal last year's win total -- with almost two months still to play. And they should have a good shot of doing so, considering Boston has won three more games this season at home (39) than Houston has won anywhere (36).
That fact is an illustration of the significant disparity between the Red Sox and the Astro team that will be their hosts for the next three nights. But it's also an indicator of one of the major reasons for the difference in results from last year to this, and a reason to think this one will indeed end in the postseason.
After beating the Diamondbacks to finish 5-2 during their latest homestand, and send them into a stretch where they'll play only three home games in three weeks, Boston is 39-21 at Fenway Park. That's a winning percentage of .650.
And that's significant because since 1988, every season in which the Sox posted a .600 winning percentage on their home field they reached the postseason. Conversely, during that same span the only time they reached the playoffs by winning fewer than 60 percent of their home contests was in the strike-shortened campaign of 1995.
Assuming they play all 81 Fenway dates, the Sox would need to win 49 games to play .600 ball at home. That means they need only go 10-11 in their remaining games to hit that mark.
Getting to that number is not only a key tell for the Red Sox, either, as baseball's standings have in recent seasons reflected a similar stress on the importance of winning at home. In the past two seasons specifically, 13 teams have finished won at least 49 home games; 12 of those clubs made the postseason, 11 won their division.
When the Red Sox made the playoffs six times in seven seasons between 2003-09, and won two World Series, a major facet of their success was that Fenway was an intimidating place to play and thus they assembled baseball’s best home record over that stretch – but over the next three years they slid from first to 19th in that category, with their winning percentage slipping from .658 to .514. The low point, of course, came last season, when the club was apparently more comfortable on the road (35-46) than at home (34-47).
But after winning 20 of their last 27 there, and after 11 walkoff wins, there's an aura and an excitement to Fenway again. And at this rate, it'll still be there come October.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||1-for-4, 2 RBI, K: The RBI single that extended his hit streak to 10 games was something of a gift, getting lost in the sun and falling feet from right fielder Gerardo Parra, but he also had a sac fly and saw 26 pitches over his five plate appearances.|
|Shane Victorino, RF||2-for-3, RBI, K, 2 HBP: After banging his left hip on the wall in an effort to catch a foul pop, the switch-hitter batted from the right side against right-handers -- and reached base all four times he did so. That gave him his fifth multi-hit game in the Sox' past six contests.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||1-for-3, RBI, 2B, 2 BB: With two on in the fifth, Pedroia fouled off four straight 1-2 pitches before doubling home Brock Holt. It was his first double since July 14, on the same afternoon as his first multi-walk game since July 2.|
|David Ortiz, DH||0-for-4, BB, K: A seven-game hit streak came to an end, and he finished the homestand just 6-for-30 (.200), but the intentional free pass means he's still reached in 18 straight tilts.|
|Mike Napoli, 1B||0-for-5, 3 K: It had the potential for a big day from Napoli, who could've made this one a lot more comfortable for Boston, but he was retired twice with the bases loaded and another time with two men aboard.|
|Mike Carp, LF||1-for-3, K: With a single from Carp before being lifted for Jonny Gomes (0-for-1), the Sox now rank second in the AL in OBP (.337) and fifth in OPS (.756) for left fielders.|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||1-for-3, R, BB: Having him catch the day game after a night game speaks to the contributions the Sox have consistently been getting from Saltalamacchia (and probably says something about their confidence in Ryan Lavarnway, too).|
|Stephen Drew, SS||2-for-3, 2 R, BB: We suggested after Saturday's win that it was beginning to look like Drew could have a major impact down the stretch, and that notion was only strengthened Sunday, when even the out he made required a terrific diving stop from second baseman Aaron Hill.|
|Brock Holt, 3B||1-for-2, R, BB, K: Made his second error, but was in the thick of the Sox' first two run-scoring rallies, singling ahead of Ellsbury in the fifth, then dropping a sacrifice bunt in the sixth.|
|Felix Doubront, SP||7 IP, 5 H, 5 K: Keeping the opponent to three runs or less is a regular feat for him, but maybe most impressive about Doubront's performance was his pitch efficiency. One outing after needing 104 pitches to get through five frames, he needed just 95 to complete seven.|
|Matt Thornton, RP||0 IP, H: Allowed a single before leaving with an oblique issue on his right side.|
|Drake Britton, RP||1 IP, H, K: Now nine innings into it, Elias says Britton is the first Red Sox pitcher ever to begin his major-league career with seven straight scoreless appearances. If Thornton is out for any length, Britton could be tested.|
|Koji Uehara, RP||1 IP, K: Farrell took no chances, bringing his closer on in a non-save situation, and Uehara ended things in just 14 pitches. Over his last 25 games he has a 0.33 ERA and foes are hitting .101 against him.|
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