For the Boston Red Sox, a well-timed nor’easter in New England and a subsequent three-game series on the road against a reeling opponent might have saved their season — and their nearly decade-long streak of sellouts at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox opened this season by losing 10 of their first 14 games for the second year in a row, on the heels of a stunning September collapse last season that cost the Sox a playoff berth and led to the departure of manager Terry Francona. Last weekend the Sox endured back-to-back embarrassments at the hand of the New York Yankees. Their first loss came on Friday, April 20, putting a damper on the 100th birthday celebration of Fenway Park, and the following evening the Sox managed to blow a nine-run lead in the final three innings by allowing 15 unanswered runs, falling to the Yankees 15-9.
The consecutive losses to the Yankees brought the Red Sox’ record in their last 41 regular season games — the equivalent of one-quarter of a 162-game regular season — to 11-30. That’s a .268 winning percentage, which translates to a 43-119 record over 162 games that would be among the worst full-season records of all-time.
“If this isn’t bottom, then we’ll find some new ends to the earth, I guess,” Valentine told reporters after the latter loss.
The Red Sox were spared the indignity of getting swept by the Yankees — and enduring their sixth straight loss overall — on national TV when the final game of the series on Sunday, April 22 was rained out thanks to drenching rains.
The Sox then headed to Minnesota and have thus far enjoyed the good fortune of running into a team in even worse condition. The Sox squeezed out a come-from-behind 6-5 win on Monday, April 23 before trouncing the Twins, 11-2, on Tuesday, April 24. This marked the fifth loss in a row for the Twins, who are 5-13 and seemingly headed for a second straight season in which they’ll flirt with 100 losses.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are now just 3.5 games out of first place in a tightly bunched AL East — nowhere near what was expected, but less disastrous than it seemed just three days ago. While the Sox will finish this week’s road trip with a more formidable foe than the Twins (Boston visits the Chicago White Sox Thursday, April 26 through Sunday, April 29), their mini-resurgence is good news for ticket brokers as well as Fenway’s famous sellout streak.
The Red Sox played to their 720th consecutive capacity crowd Saturday, by far the longest streak in Major League Baseball history and the third-longest in American professional sports history behind an 814-game streak by the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers from 1977 through 1995 and the current 851-game streak fashioned by minor league baseball’s Dayton Dragons.
But with Fenway’s 100th anniversary celebration in the rearview mirror, there’s nothing to focus on now for Boston fans except the current condition of the Red Sox. With an uninspiring home stand scheduled for next week, the Sox host the perennially downtrodden Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles in a pair of three-game series from Tuesday, May 1 through Sunday, May 6 — the sellout streak is as vulnerable as it has been at any time since it started back in May 2003.
So the more wins the Sox can rack up this week, the better. History suggests that the crowds will keep filing in as long as the Sox return to their winning ways. The sellout streak appeared to be in some danger during last year’s rough start, but fans remained engaged in the Sox as they climbed over .500 for good by mid-May and went 66-32 from May 11 through Aug. 31, 2011.