The Red Sox have been scoring early and often this season, a delightful turn of events given the 2015 club’s frequent need to fight from behind.
With 38 first-inning runs (fully 21% of all Boston runs scored this season and their most scored in any inning), the Sox lead the American League, second only to the Nationals who had 40 first-inning runs entering Wednesday’s action.
Boston leads the Majors when it comes to early inning runs this season, scoring 82 between the first and third innings of 2016 games. The closest competitors to the Sox’ early game dominance are the Mets and Rangers, each of which start the day with 69 such runs.
Five runs are the most scored by the Sox in the first inning of any game in 2016. That’s a nice start to any contest, for sure, but it is nowhere near the club record for first inning offense. For that, you’ll need to turn the record books back to June 27, 2003, a special game at Fenway that is tied for an American League record for first-inning scoring.
The heat was on that Friday night, the summer sun still in the sky, the temperature 93ºF as the Sox took to the field to face the Marlins, who would go on to win the World Series that season.
Byung-Hyun Kim was on the mound for the 45-32 Red Sox, then 2.0 games back in the AL East. He immediately surrendered a run before the Sox had even came to bat.
For the 40-40 Marlins it was Carl Pavano—and it was about to be a very bad day for him.
Even today it’s hard to wrap your head around an inning like this. Johnny Damon doubled, Todd Walker singled, Nomar Garciaparra doubled, Manny Ramirez homered, David Ortiz doubled, and Kevin Millar singled. The Sox were up four to one, no one was out and FLA manager Jack McKeon had seen enough. Pavano was out of the game.
The new Marlins pitcher was Michael Tejera. He’d face five Sox batters, get none of them out, but allow five more Red Sox runs. It was now 9-1.
Befuddled, McKeon went to the bullpen again, this time for Allen Levrault in what would be his 56th and last big league appearance. Finally, an out when Garciaparra, in his second at-bat of the inning, popped one up behind the plate. But Boston was nowhere done with the scoring.
Ramirez singled, Ortiz walked to load the bases. Millar sacrificed to center field to score Walker from third. Apparently unsatisfied with an open base, Levrault walked Trot Nixon to reload the bases. Bill Mueller doubled for two more Red Sox runs. So, naturally, Levrault walked Jason Varitek to reload the bases for a fourth time in that half inning.
Johnny Damon, up to bat for the third time in the inning singled. Nixon scored and Mueller, greedy for yet another run, was thrown out at the plate.
When the dust settled, it was 14 Red Sox runs in one amazing half inning of play, tying an AL record for first inning runs that stands to this day and was originally set by the Indians in game two of a doubleheader on June 18, 1950.
Boston would go on to score in every inning of the game but the sixth, ending the day with a 25-8 win.
The 25 Red Sox runs that day are now five shy of baseball’s record for the most runs in any game since 1900. That record was set by the Rangers over the Orioles on August 22, 2007, a 30-3 drubbing.
Even more first-inning runs
Baseball’s record for the most runs in a first inning since 1900 is 15 by the Brooklyn Dodgers facing the Reds on May 21, 1952. The record books also include a 16-run first inning for the 1894 Boston Braves in game one of a June 18th doubleheader.