Things looking eerily like 1996 for Red Sox

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
9:11
AM ET
"I can't believe life's going to go on like this all summer. I refuse to believe that. We've seen about every negative we can possibly see in these five games. We haven't hit, we haven't fielded and we haven't pitched well. There's not much more we can fail at. We've failed at all of them."

If that sounds like the 2011 Red Sox, it's not. Those words were spoken by former Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy in 1996, the last time the Red Sox started 0-5.

Beyond the losses, other numbers look eerily similar.

The offenses were equally anemic. The 1996 Red Sox were batting .193 with 14 runs scored through five games. This season? A .190 batting average and 16 runs scored.

This April, the Red Sox are hitting even worse with runners in scoring position (.175). Even that number might be misleadingly positive. In the past four games, Boston is 3-for-28 (.107) with RISP.

In 1996, the starting rotation had a 6.48 ERA, while the bullpen's was 5.79. Those numbers look great compared to the 8.33 starters' ERA and 7.98 bullpen ERA that the Red Sox currently hold.

The biggest issues are home runs and strikeouts. This April, the Red Sox have already allowed as many home runs (14) as they did in all of April 2004. Despite pitching 8 2/3 more innings than the bullpen, the Red Sox rotation has four fewer strikeouts. Through five games, Red Sox starters have 12 strikeouts, or the same number that Matt Garza had in his Chicago Cubs' debut.

That leaves a new piece of history that Boston is looking to avoid.

The Red Sox haven’t started 0-6 since 1945, when they lost eight in a row to start the season. That was the third straight year that Ted Williams missed due to World War II. Meanwhile, Bobby Doerr, who led the AL in slugging in 1944, spent the year in the Army.

By no means were the Red Sox alone in losing their stars to the war. But the contrast between 1945 and 2011 is stark. Boston's top offensive player that season was 39-year-old Bob Johnson (.783 OPS).

Some additional historical perspective from the ESPN Stats and Info blog:

• The Boston Red Sox, Rays and Astros are the 86th, 87th and 88th teams in the modern era of baseball (since 1900) to start a season 0-5. Only two of those previous 85 teams managed to make the postseason: The 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 1995 Cincinnati Reds. In fact, those two squads actually started 0-6 before getting their first win.

• With the Rays and Red Sox losing on Wednesday, this is this the first time the AL East had two teams start a season 0-5, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Jeremy Lundblad

ESPN Stats and Information

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