The Red Sox enter the start of a brief, three-game homestand at Fenway Park tonight with the best record in the American League, holding the biggest lead in franchise history after the opening month of the season.At the end of April, Mike Lowell had the best batting average among the regulars (.314), followed by David Ortiz (.297) and Kevin Youkilis (.291). Ortiz and Youkilis had the highest on-base percentage (.402). Ortiz had seven home runs and 22 RBIs; Lowell was second in both categories (4, 20). Both Ortiz and Lowell led the club with eight doubles.
The Red Sox are first in the American League in on-base percentage (.353); Toronto and the Yankees are tied for second at .347. The Sox are third in slugging percentage (.426), behind Toronto (.441) and Tampa Bay (.434) (the Devil Rays have scored 126 runs, one more than Boston).
Yet almost half of the starting lineup has been in a slump: Manny Ramirez (.202/.314/.315), Dustin Pedroia (.182/.308/.236), Coco Crisp (.235/.274/.338) and Jason Varitek (.239/.325/.358) have yet to start producing. Gordon Edes reports that Manny's .202 average
is his lowest average for any month since he began playing for the Red Sox in 2001, and his worst monthly average since he batted .132 in May 1994, his rookie season ... That doesn't include the .211 he hit in seven games (4 for 19) last September ...Drew on Ramirez: "He's hitting about the hardest .200 I've ever seen. I can't tell if he's hitting .200, .180 or .450." ... In his last 21 at-bats, Drew has only one hit. Pedroia began the year 5-for-10, but is 5-for-45 (.111) since.
The pitching has been amazing. The Red Sox are second in the league in ERA (3.26), behind Oakland (3.16), and are tied with the White Sox for lowest opposition batting average (.228).
Oakland (.294) and Boston (.296) are 1-2 in lowest on-base percentage and lowest WHIP (1.17, 1.19). Baltimore has the lowest slugging percentage allowed (.356), followed by Boston (.361) and Oakland (.369). Boston has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the AL (2.45), followed by Oakland (2.43).
The AL's Top 10 in ERA includes both Josh Beckett (5th, 2.48) and Tim Wakefield (9th, 2.59). Since his Opening Day shelling in Kansas City, Curt Schilling has posted a 2.57 ERA; his 3.27 ERA is 16th.
If Hideki Okajima isn't the team's MVP so far -- Doug Mientkiewicz thinks he is -- then he certainly has been the surprise of the season. After allowing a home run on his first pitch of his season, he has pitched 12.2 scoreless innings, allowings four hits and three walks, while striking out 17 (15 of his past 26 outs have been strikeouts).
When I gave up the home run to [Buck], I thought, 'Wow, Major League batters are really great.' Because of that one pitch, now I've been able to get this far. That pitch was a good chance for me to learn what I need to do to have success in the Major Leagues. It made me rethink what way I can pitch in the United States and be successful. The result of that is where I am and how I'm pitching.The bullpen has a 2.18 ERA -- lowest among all MLB teams and more than two runs ahead of the #2 AL team (Twins, 3.48). In the last 17 games, the bullpen's ERA is 1.07. It has allowed only one run in its last 21.1 road innings. Both Brendan Donnelly (9 games, 6 innings) and Jonathan Papelbon (9 games, 9.1 innings) have not allowed a run.
In the six games against the Yankees so far this year, the bullpen has pitched 16 innings, allowing two runs and one inherited runner to score.