20 April 1912 – On this day one hundred years ago, the Boston Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park, defeating the New York Highlanders (later to be named the Yankees) 7-6 in 11 innings. It is often noted that the opening was overshadowed in Boston by a much bigger news story at the time: the recent sinking of the RMS Titanic, a British passenger ship, in the North Atlantic Ocean five days earlier.
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With a no-hitter thrown in May and last Thursday night’s win over New York at Yankee Stadium, starting Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester has pitched two shutouts in 2008, the first Boston pitcher to toss more than one in a season since Hideo Nomo threw two in 2001. He is also the first Red Sox southpaw to toss multiple shutouts in one season since Bruce Hurst threw three in 1987. As pitch counts have limited the opportunities for starting pitchers to throw a complete game, let alone toss a shutout, these feats have become more and more the rarity in today’s ball game. Over the past 25 seasons going back to 1984, only 12 pitchers have multiple shutouts to their credit as a Boston starter; of those pitchers, only seven have at least three and only two, Roger Clemens (38) and Hurst (11), have a double-digit total. Former ace Pedro Martinez is third in that span with eight, throwing four in 2000; fourth is Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who tossed six over the 1984 and 1985 seasons and fifth is another former Red Sox lefty, Bob Ojeda, who recorded his five career shutouts with Boston in 1984.
In team history, Clemens is tied with another former Boston great, Cy Young, for the most shutouts in team history, although Young did that over eight seasons while Clemens accomplished his total over 13 seasons with the club. Standing alone in third place in Smoky Joe Wood with 28 over eight years with the club, while Luis Tiant is fourth with 26 over eight seasons and Dutch Leonard is fifth with 25 over six seasons. The single season record for the franchise is 10, accomplish by Young in 1904 and Wood in 1912; Babe Ruth is third with nine in 1916, and Clemens (1988) and Carl Mays (1918) are tied for fourth with eight.
In team history, the Red Sox have seen 26 different pitchers win at least 20 games in a season at least once in a Boston uniform. The pitcher who holds the franchise record for the most victories in one season is Smoky Joe Wood, who won 34 games in 1912 for the eventual World Series champions; he was one of three pitchers on the 1912 staff, along with Buck O’Brien and Hugh Bedient, to reach the 20-win threshold, as the latter two each won exactly 20 games on a team that set the franchise record for wins in a season (105). Only one other pitcher in team history, Cy Young, won better than 30 games in a season; he accomplished this feat twice, once in Boston’s inagural season of 1901 (33) and then again in 1902 (32). Young also holds the record for the most seasons of 20 or more wins with the Red Sox, having accomplished the feat six times in the eight years that he was part of the starting rotation. After him, there are three pitchers with three seasons of 20 or more wins: Bill Dinneen (1902-1904), Luis Tiant (1973, 1974, 1976), and Roger Clemens (1986, 1987, 1990). Other multiple winners include Babe Ruth, Carl Mays, Boo Ferriss, Jesse Tannehill, Mel Parnell, Wood, Tex Hughson, and Wes Ferrell.
In total, there have been 46 instances where a pitcher won 20 games or more in a season for the Red Sox. Nine times, the starting rotation for Boston has had multiple 20-game winners. Between 1902 and 1904, Dinneen and Young won at least 20 games in each season for the Red Sox and, with Boston pitchers Tom Hughes (20 wins in 1903) and Tannehill (21 wins in 1904) also reaching that plateau, fans were witness to eight instances in three straight seasons that a Sox pitcher accomplished this feat. The most recent instance in which two players on the Red Sox pitching staff won at least 20 games in a single season happened just five years ago in 2002, when Derek Lowe (21) and Pedro Martinez (20) both managed the feat; before that, you have to go back to 1949 to find multiple 20-game winners on the Red Sox pitching staff for one season: Parnell (25) and Ellis Kinder (23). Curiously, there have been ten Boston pitchers in franchise history to fall just one win short of the mark for a single season; of those ten, both Martinez and Howard Ehmke did reach the mark in another season for the Sox. Martinez fell one win shy his first season with the club in 1998 but won 23 the next year, while Ehmke won 19 in 1924, one year after winning 20.