In his team's agonizing 17-inning loss Sunday at Fenway Park, Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez made history. He was the first Boston cleanup hitter ever to go 0-for-8 in a game. If others had done it before him, there's a good chance that none would have looked as putrid as Gonzalez, who made three straight first-pitch outs in extra innings before striking out on three pitches against Orioles designated hitter...ahem...reliever Chris Davis with two runners on in the bottom of the 17th.
Gonzalez refused to speak with reporters after the game. He was one of the primary targets of criticism on sports radio Monday afternoon.
And after all that, he stepped to the plate in the first inning in Kansas City on Monday night, battled through a lengthy at-bat against a lefty and blooped an RBI single to center. It was just a little sawed-off hit, but the disparity between the ineptitude at home and the signs of promise on the road spoke volumes not only for Gonzalez but for the team as a whole. Until things change in some form or fashion, this Red Sox team may need to be away from home in order to thrive.
The microscope focused on the Red Sox is as intense as it ever has been in Boston. There is a good chance that that, as much as injuries and uncertainty, is crippling the club. Meanwhile, the road version is 8-6 this season (entering yesterday), including wins in seven of the last eight games away from the bright lights and big city. Gonzalez's run-scoring hit kicked off an 11-5 rout of the Royals.
It is impossible to quantify pressure, attention and stress, and the ability or lack thereof to overcome. There are tangible results, however, in the recent record at Fenway Park. Boston is 4-10 at home to start the season. Also, it finished 4-10 at home last year when the pressure, attention and stress were heightened to an inordinate degree. The eyes of the baseball world were monitoring the epic collapse on a nightly basis; those in Boston were transfixed.
Last season's collapse, an awkward offseason and a woeful start under a new manager who has had his share of missteps have only served to increase the discourse surrounding the Sox. Who wouldn't want to get away from that? Sure, they're professionals and paid big money to answer questions and hear boos, but it's nice to not have to do either. On the road they can play in front of sparse crowds (19,502 showed up Monday in KC), a limited Boston media contingency and a select set of Sox fans who are so in love with the team that they'll make a connection in Cincinnati and stay in a Best Western in Raytown, Mo., just for a glimpse of their heroes. These aren't the fans that want to rip out your heart and spit on it for grounding into a double play.
The level of competition helps. Boston has picked apart Minnesota, Chicago and now Kansas City during this hot stretch on the road. The home slate has consisted of Tampa Bay, Texas, New York and improved Oakland and Baltimore teams. Heck, maybe that is all there is to it. But if so, the Sox are barely better than the dregs of the American League and can't hold a candle to the AL's elite.
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They certainly can't seem to when the lights are on at home.