A sunny day in Arlington, Texas, saw the Boston Red Sox on the brink of defeat, down 2-0 to the Texas Rangers in a three-game early season series. The offense was anemic, scoring just one run and the suddenly rejuvenated Arlington crowd smelled blood, cheering loudly for the inevitable sweep. The Red Sox had their chance, loading the bases in a three-run game, but couldn't capitalize on the late-inning opportunity and went down to defeat to the roar of the Texas fans.
April 3, 2011? Well, yes. But also May 2, 2004.
I was at both games, and the similarities are striking if somewhat limited (I was able to get much better seats to the game seven years ago, for one thing).
As Jeremy Lundblad at ESPN Boston trenchantly discusses this morning, three-game losing streaks are not uncommon. Every Red Sox playoff team since 1904 has had at least one. The 100-win 1946 Red Sox lost six in a row. Heck, the crown jewel of teams in the expansion era — the 114-win New York Yankees of 1998 — started their season 0-3. And being swept by the Rangers in Arlington obviously didn't impede the '04 Sox from bringing Boston fans to the promised land for the first time in 86 years.
But that knowledge doesn't make a season-opening sweep much easier to swallow. A weekend that began with promise turned into a morning of trepidation and an afternoon of frustration as Matt Harrison, he of the 5.51 career ERA as a starter, managed to strike out eight Red Sox hitters, including Jacoby Ellsbury, who seemed to be hacking away (though perhaps that wasn't entirely the case) in an effort to tie the game in the seventh.
It's no fun to see your team lose in person, especially when you get to see them once every couple of years or so; it's less fun when your starter gets bashed for four home runs while the offense flails away in futility. From a ballgame perspective, it wasn't a fun time, though seeing Carl Crawford get the first of what we hope will be many hits in a Red Sox uniform was nice.
The dreariness of the game — Buchholz is an agonizingly slow worker — left plenty of time for crowd watching from our seats three rows from the very top of Rangers Ballpark. We sat next to a friendly gentleman from Bangor who had somehow gotten Opening Day tickets and flown in for the series and behind a less friendly woman whose accent indicated she was from the same region of the country. Behind us sat a pair of Rangers fans, and the contrast could not have been more striking.
On the one hand, there was the stereotype of the boorish, obnoxious Red Sox fan, as the fan in front of us guzzled her Bud Light, threatened to kick a Ranger fan's ass and three times shot Adrian Beltre the bird for a reason I cannot fathom. Meanwhile, the fans next to us had plenty of cynical comments about seemingly every member of the Red Sox. They were certainly knowledgeable about the team, but I'm not sure they realized the Sox have been pretty successful lately.
Then there was the stereotype bandwagon jumper, there because attending a Rangers game is suddenly the thing to do in the Dallas area. Yes, the Rangers fans behind us were clearly passionate … about the NCAA playoffs, spending at least six innings discussing the tournament as it's been played to date.
Once upon a time, going to a Rangers-Red Sox game was an easy win for me. I padded my personal winning percentage between 2005-07 by watching the Sox play in Texas and Kansas City a total of three times. Those days are clearly over — and have been for some time. That's good for baseball and good for the region, but it made for a disappointing afternoon in Arlington.