A year ago, the Red Sox lost as many one-run games as they won over the course of the regular season. That success rate ranked only amid the middle of the pack among American League teams, despite the fact the eventual champs won a baseball-best 97 games overall.
This season, even after Monday’s 1-0 blanking of the Twins, the Sox are one of the league’s three worst clubs in contests decided by a single run — but if they’d merely been as good so far as they were a season ago, as mediocre as that might’ve been, they’d be 35-35 overall for the year. They’d be fighting for second place in the division. And the narrative would undoubtedly be different.
As it is now, though, Boston owns the third-worst record in the AL, sitting 5.5 games back of a playoff slot, and 8.5 back in the AL East. Here’s a look at how the teams it’s chasing fared on Monday night.
IN THE DIVISION
Rays 5, Orioles 4: A day after his broken-bat, pinch-hit single won a game, former PawSox first baseman Jerry Sands came off the bench to deliver victory to Tampa Bay again. This time he did it with a two-run home run in the eighth inning — his first big-league circuit clout since Sept. 20, 2011, almost a year before he was traded to Boston — and new closer Juan Carlos Oviedo managed to seal the Rays’ fourth win in five games. The Orioles, meanwhile, have dropped three of four.
Baltimore is 3.5 games up on Boston; Tampa, 4.5 behind.
The Blue Jays (8.5 ahead of the Sox) and Yankees (4 ahead) were both off.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Indians 4, Angels 3: After leaving Fenway with a couple, the Tribe won its third straight one-run game, using Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera homers to support winning pitcher Trevor Bauer. The triumph put Cleveland back on the plus side (at 36-35) and they’re now just two back of the Angels and Royals, the co-leaders of the wild-card race.
Cleveland is 3.5 games up on Boston; Los Angeles, 5.5 up.
Royals 11, Tigers 8: Kansas City is just half a game back in the AL Central after hammering Justin Verlander and taking advantage of some shoddy Detroit defense. Verlander allowed 12 hits, two walks, and seven earned runs over six innings — lifting his season ERA to 4.98 — as all but one Royals starter either had at least two hits or scored twice. Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain had three hits apiece, while Billy Butler knocked home three runs in a game that only became close when the Tigers’ J.D. Martinez hit a grand slam with two outs in the ninth. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep KC from its eighth straight victory.
Kansas City is 5.5 games up on Boston; Detroit, 6 up.
Rangers 14, Athletics 8: The Rangers opened a three-game series in Oakland by crushing four home runs, including two from first baseman Donnie Murphy. Old friend Adrian Beltre knocked home three for Texas, which ran away by plating six runs in the fourth to eventually take a 10-2 lead before former Red Sox Brandon Moss cut into that edge with his 17th homer and 54th RBI.
Texas is 3 games up on Boston; Oakland, 10 up.
Mariners 5, Padres 1: The home team scored five times over the first two innings and it stood up as Chris Young continued his strong comeback with six shutout innings. The M’s have now won consecutive games after a five-game skid.
Seattle is 4 games up on Boston.
NATIONAL LEAGUE NOTABLES
Jonathan Papelbon allowed just his second run since April 2 to snap a streak of 15 straight successful save chances, but the Phillies scored five times in the 13th to beat the Braves anyway, 6-1 … The Cubs also won in 13 innings, getting their win when pitcher Travis Wood delivered a pinch-hit, two-run double to beat the Marlins, 5-4. Had Miami won, it would’ve moved into first place in the NL East with Atlanta’s loss … The 2013 World Series’ other participants are getting hot, as the Cardinals won for the seventh time in eight games, 6-2 over the Mets … The Brewers scored three times in the eighth, then added three more in the ninth, to pull away from the Diamondbacks and win 9-3 … Matt Kemp, who might be an appealing trade option for the Red Sox if not for his massive contract, is heating up. With two hits and two RBIs Monday, he’s hitting .424 with a 1.222 OPS over his last 10 games … Adrian Gonzalez, hitting .158 against lefties this season, sat out for Los Angeles.
TEN YEARS AGO TODAY …
After losing the first two games of the series, the Red Sox recovered to pummel the Rockies in the finale at Coors Field, 11-0. The Boston attack included six doubles (two from Johnny Damon), a triple (from Nomar Garciaparra), and David Ortiz‘s 14th homer of the year. Ortiz drove in five runs on a 3-for-5 night, while Derek Lowe allowed four hits and four walks over what became his best start of the year. With the win, the Sox pulled back within 4.5 games of the Yankees in the East.