Historically, the Red Sox’ record at Fenway Park has been telling of the team’s viability as a contender. Over the past 30 years, save for the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and ’95, only once (1987) has Boston missed the playoffs while winning at least 60 percent of its home games. And every time it has failed to meet that minimum of 49 wins it has correspondingly missed the postseason. So losing seven of the first 11 games they’ve played on home turf isn’t a great sign for these Sox.
But how it’s happening may be worse. With Tuesday’s 9-3 loss to Masahiro Tanaka and the rival Yankees, the Red Sox have now trailed by at least four runs in eight of the 11 home games they’ve played this season — and during the current homestand they’ve faced a deficit of at least five runs in four of five contests.
To their credit, and in testament to their character, the Sox have continued to compete. They haven’t quit. Sunday night, they even won one of those games. But after going an American League-best 53-28 at Fenway last year, they haven’t even been giving themselves much of a realistic chance lately.
In five of their last seven Fenway contests, by the time the Sox offense scored a run the club’s probability of winning that particular game had already been reduced to 12 percent or less, according to the win expectancy calculations published at Baseball-Reference.com, which consider the situation and circumstances in their simulations. Take a look:
*April 8, vs. Texas (10-7 loss) — After a bases-loaded walk chases Felix Doubront with two outs in the top of the third, the Sox trailed 5-0 and had a win expectancy of 8 percent.
*April 18, vs. Baltimore (8-4 loss) — After a Nelson Cruz single gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead with one out in the third, the Sox had a win expectancy of 12 percent. (Two innings later, trailing 6-1 but not yet halfway through the game, Boston’s win expectancy was down to 6 percent.)
*April 20, vs. Baltimore (6-5 win) — After Dustin Pedroia was retired leading off the bottom of the sixth, with his team trailing 5-0, Boston’s win expectancy was 4 percent. (It quickly jumped to 22 percent when Jonny Gomes slugged a three-run homer three batters later.)
*April 21, vs. Baltimore (7-6 loss) — After Clay Buchholz was sent to the showers by a Jonathan Schoop single that gave the Orioles a 6-0 lead with one out in the third, Boston’s win expectancy dropped to 6 percent.
*April 22, vs. New York (9-3 loss) — After Derek Jeter’s fifth-inning single scored Jacoby Ellsbury, closed the book on Jon Lester, and gave the Yankees an 8-2 lead, the Sox’ win expectancy was 4 percent.
It’s a product of subpar pitching, for sure, and no home team in baseball has allowed more baserunners per inning than have the Red Sox, whose staff has a WHIP of 1.58 at Fenway this season — and whose starters have all posted a WHIP at least that high at home. But it’s also a product of an offense struggling to score early.
After seeing their leadoff man leave for the Yankees, the Sox have scored two first-inning runs this season, and only one of those has come at Fenway. Their opponent has scored first in 14 of 21 tilts. The Sox have trailed at some point in 17 games, and of the 79 runs they’ve scored overall, 48 have come while batting from behind. Twenty-one more have come with the game tied.
So only 10 have been tack-on runs with the Red Sox playing from ahead, and just four of those have come at Fenway: one via an RBI hit, but another coming on an error, and two more by way of fielder’s choices.
“Once again we’re digging ourselves a hole early in the game and playing catch-up,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday night. “That’s taken quite a bit of energy.”
Fortunately for Farrell, energy isn’t something his players seem to lack. It’s usually not lacking amid the atmosphere on a good night at Fenway, either.
This April, though, those have been alarmingly few for the home team.