Dave D'Onofrio's Sox Beat: The magic has returned to Fenway
THE sellout streak may be over, the pregame pomp and circumstance may be more muted, the scene may generally be more subtle - but the magic is back at Fenway Park.
That was obvious late Thursday night, when David Ortiz laced a laser into the visitors' bullpen, felling the Rangers with a rocket shot of a three-run homer that made 6-3 winners of the Red Sox as soon as he reached the rambunctiousness waiting for him at home plate.
Between 2003-09, the Red Sox made the playoffs six times in seven seasons, winning two World Series, and a major facet of their success was baseball's best home record - but over the next three years they slid from first to 19th in that category as their winning percentage slipped from .658 to .514.
Since 1988, every season in which the Sox posted a .600 winning percentage at Fenway ended with a playoff berth. On the contrary, the only time they reached the postseason when winning less than 60 percent of their home contests was the strike-shortened campaign of 1995.
"In the way we have created that character about us," outfielder Jonny Gomes said, "we've kind of created a nice home-field advantage."
In a walkoff win, it's usually one guy who winds up getting pounded by his teammates and credited with the game-winning knock. But when asked why the Sox seem to have a knack for such dramatics early this season, Jon Lester's explanation suggested Boston's triumphs are the product of a total-team effort.
In taking high school lefty Trey Ball with the seventh overall pick, the Red Sox spent a first-round pick on pitching for the sixth time since 2010. Later that same day, they also went pitching with their second-round pick, taking Teddy Stankiewicz from a junior college in Texas, and overall took seven hurlers in the draft's first 10 rounds.
Essentially, elite pitching doesn't come easy - so by stockpiling talent the Sox are trying to give themselves their best chance of finding it in a few years.
On May 1, with Joel Hanrahan having just returned from the disabled list, there was some question of who the Red Sox closer would be. But it turned out to be a moot discussion - even when Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were on the DL simultaneously.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Thursday's triumph was the Sox' fifth in 23 games when trailing after six innings. Last year they won only seven of 83 such opportunities.
Dave D'Onofrio covers the Red Sox for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Which of the following prospective candidates do you think the Red Sox should hire to replace Bobby Valentine as the team's manager?
- Sandy Alomar Jr.
- Brad Ausmus
- John Farrell
- DeMarlo Hale
- Torey Lovullo
- Dave Martinez
- Tony Pena
- Ryne Sandberg
- Joe Torre
- Jason Varitek
- Total Votes: 1840