MLB Notebook: Red Sox off to superb 18-7 start
When the 1946 Red Sox played their 25th game of the season, the result of the contest was anomalous not only for the outcome (a loss, just their fourth all year), but also for the timidity of their offense.
Managing just two hits against the Yankees' Tiny Bonham, the Red Sox suffered through their second shutout of the season. The potency of Boston's offense could certainly be recognized in the American League season-leaderboards after all games were played that day. Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams were 1-2 in runs scored; Pesky, Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Rudy York owned four of the top five hit totals in the AL; Bobby Doerr, Williams, and York were 1-2-4 in RBIs, respectively; Pesky (.400) was leading his teammate Williams (.396) in the batting race; and Williams was first in on-base percentage (ahead of DiMaggio, who was second) and tied for first in slugging.
The 2013 Red Sox -- off to their superb 18-7 start -- may not be enjoying that level of supremacy, but with Mike Napoli (first in doubles, second in RBIs), Jacoby Ellsbury (first in steals and triples) and Dustin Pedroia (first in times on base) charging out of the gate and David Ortiz owning a 1.400 OPS and averaging two hits, nearly one extra-base hit and more than one RBI in the first eight games of his season, they aren't doing too badly either.
Another key reason to the Sox's success is their pitching. Clay Buchholz leads the rotation with a 5-0 mark and a 1.19 ERA. Ace Jon Lester is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA. Red Sox hurlers lead the Majors with 248 strikeouts, a new franchise record for strikeouts in a single month as well as the all-time MLB record for team strikeouts in the month of April. Also, Boston pitchers have held opponents to an American League-best .221 average.
The Red Sox defeated the Astros 6-1 on Sunday afternoon, completing a four-game sweep. Making Houston's lives particularly difficult was Ortiz, who drove in eight runs in the series and completed things with a two-RBI day in this finale. Ortiz has 293 multiple RBI games in his Boston career, sixth most for the franchise. Williams had 476, and is followed by Carl Yastrzemski (469), Jim Rice (373), Dwight Evans (332) and Bobby Doerr (322).
Boston's 18-7 start marks the seventh time in team history the club has won at least 18 of its first 25. In 1946, the Sox opened up 21-4, while the '04, '40, '94, '98 and 2002 clubs also began 18-7. Like that '46 team, which played 17 of its first 25 games at home, this year's team has played a significant portion of its schedule in Fenway, with 16 of the Red Sox's first 25 being home games. Those 16 tie them with the Reds and Nationals for the most in the Majors.
Left-hander Jeff Locke allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings and the Pirates beat the Cardinals 9-0 on Sunday to improve to 15-10. With Locke and Justin Wilson combining on a three-hit shutout, Pittsburgh now has five shutouts this season, and has allowed no more than four hits in any of them. The Bucs are the seventh team since 1916 to have posted -- through their first 25 games -- at least five shutouts on four-or-fewer hits. The 1968 Indians had six, while the '58 Yankees, the '63 White Sox, the '66 Indians, the '71 Athletics and the '92 Braves also had five.
In his first game back after a stint on the disabled list, Yoenis Cespedes had a pair of hits, including a one-out, two-run, game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth of Oakland's 9-8 win over Baltimore. With the A's winning in 10 innings, they improved to 9-2 this season when Cespedes starts (they are 5-10 when he doesn't). Since his debut in 2012, the A's have a 91-48 record when Cespedes starts, and a 17-32 mark when he does not.
At the age of 20 years and 296 days, Manny Machado had his first career four-hit game. He is the youngest Orioles player to have four hits in a game since Brooks Robinson (20 years and 130 days old) in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 25, 1957, in a 4-2 win against Whitey Ford and the Yankees.
The Dodgers beat the Brewers 2-0, behind Clayton Kershaw's eight scoreless innings. Kershaw fanned 12 with no walks, the second time in his career he has had that many K's while issuing no walks. He's the third Dodgers pitcher since 1916 to have multiple efforts like this, with Sandy Koufax having six and Don Drysdale having two.
Cincinnati's Tony Cingrani -- in his third career start (all coming this year) -- fanned 11 with one walk in six innings on Sunday.
In the fourth, Cingrani struck out four, making him the 68th pitcher in history to accomplish that feat. Cingrani is the 38th National League pitcher to do it, and the fifth Reds pitcher to do it. The other pitchers for Cincinnati: Joe Nuxhall (Aug. 11, 1959); Mario Soto (May 17, 1984), Tim Birtsas (June 4, 1990) and Frankie Rodriguez (July 22, 2001);
Cingrani has increased his strikeout total in each of his three outings this season, going from eight to nine to the 11 in this most recent outing. In doing so, he has become the only Reds pitcher since 1916 to open his season by striking out at least eight in each of his first three appearances.
Kevin Correia (eight innings, six hits) improved to 3-1, as the Twins blanked the Rangers, 5-0.
The Twins' first team shutout of the year saw Correia lower his season ERA to 2.23. The last Minnesota pitcher before Correia to make at least five starts in March/April and also post an ERA that low was Brad Radke in 2001, who entered May with a 2.23 mark over six starts.
Correia has gone at least seven innings in each of his five starts this season; he is the first Twins pitcher to begin the year like that since Carlos Silva opened with 10 straight seven-plus innings pitched starts in 2005. Correia and Boston's Clay Buchholz are the only two pitchers this year to open with at least seven innings in all five of their starts.
Here and there
• Jeremy Guthrie improved to 3-0 this season and 8-3 as a Royal, throwing 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball and helping Kansas City to a 9-0 win. After taking the loss in each of his first three games for the team (he was acquired in a trade on July 20, 2012), Guthrie is undefeated, going 8-0 in his next 16 outings. That 16-start undefeated streak ties him with Paul Splittorff for the longest in franchise history. During the run, Guthrie has thrown 107 innings and posted a 2.44 ERA. During his run, Splittorff was 11-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 110 1/3 innings.
• Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma allowed one unearned run in six innings, but he did not factor in a decision as Seattle topped Anaheim, 2-1. Iwakuma presumably has finished his work for the first month of the 2013 season, and has made it quite notable.
With a 1.67 ERA over his six starts, Iwakuma has posted the lowest March/April ERA for any Mariners pitcher with six starts (there have been 29 such pitchers in the team's history). Iwakuma betters the 1.90 ERA posted by Felix Hernandez this season, which would have been the lowest. Before the 2013 season, the lowest March/April ERA compiled by a six-start Mariners hurler was the 2.22 offered by Hernandez in 2008.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.