Not until Sept. 28, however, did the Red Sox break out the champagne, after clinching their first AL East title since 1995. Boston has finished the regular season in first place 14 times, eight before the dawn of the divisional era (1903, '04, '12, '15, '16, '18, '46, '67) and six since then (1975, '86, '88, '90, '95, '07).
By month: April 16-8, May 20-8, June 13-14, July 15-12, Aug. 15-13 and Sept. 16-11
Anyone who has seen Fenway Park come eerily alive during any regular-season game can grasp why the ballpark holds such an advantage for the Red Sox over the years. The 2007 season has been no different, but Boston's road record particularly stands out. The Red Sox ended the season with the best road record in the AL, second in baseball only to the Mets (47-34).
Avg.: .280, 5th in AL
Runs: 867, 3rd in AL
HRs: 166, 7th in AL
OPS: .806, 2nd in AL
Despite compiling the franchise's lowest single-season home run total since 2000, the Red Sox slugged .444, higher than in 2006. The reason: a league-leading 352 doubles, paced by David Ortiz's 52, the highest total for a designated hitter since the position's inception in 1973. That, while reaching base at a .362 clip, helped the Red Sox score the fourth-most runs in the Majors.
Avg.: Ortiz, .332, 6th in AL
HRs: Ortiz, 35, 3rd in AL
RBIs: Mike Lowell, 120, T-4th in AL
Runs: Ortiz, 116, T-5th in AL
OPS: Ortiz, 1.069, 1st in AL
SB: Julio Lugo, 32, T-7th in AL
One of the above numbers says it all. Ortiz, whose knee and back troubles briefly had pundits thinking "down year," posted the gaudiest OPS in all of baseball. Yes, thanks to a league-best .446 on-base percentage and a .623 slugging percentage inflated by his 52 doubles and 35 homers, Ortiz produced a 1.069 OPS, better by .005 points than likely AL MVP Alex Rodriguez. Thus, despite hitting 19 fewer homers than in 2006, Ortiz enjoyed arguably the best season of his standout career.
Overall ERA: 3.87, 1st in AL
Starters ERA: 4.20, T-1st in AL
Bullpen ERA: 3.14, 1st in AL
Strikeouts: 1,144, 3rd in AL
HRs allowed: 151, 6th in AL
Opponents BA: .248, 1st in AL
Even as late-season fatigue took a toll on relievers Hideki Okajima and Eric Gagne, the Boston bullpen kept its league-best relief ERA nearly a third of a run below second-ranked Toronto. Red Sox relievers yielded a .228 opponents' batting average and saved 80 percent of their chances, both Major League bests. They also pitched the third-fewest innings in the AL; for that, they can thank a stellar performance by the starting staff.
Wins: Josh Beckett, 20, 1st in AL
ERA (starter): Beckett, 3.27, 6th in AL
ERA (reliever): Jonathan Papelbon, 1.88, 4th in AL
Strikeouts: Daisuke Matsuzaka, 201, 6th in AL
Saves: Papelbon, 37, 6th in AL
Holds: Okajima, 27, 3rd in AL
HRs allowed: Matsuzaka, 25, 10th in AL
Opponents BA (starter): Beckett, .245, 6th in AL
Opponents BA (reliever): Papelbon, .144, 1st in AL
Beckett put it all together with a season that might well net him the AL Cy Young Award. His candidacy is built on the strength of his 20 wins and a 3.27 ERA, both staff bests for, statistically, the strongest pitching staff in the Majors. Papelbon, meanwhile, became the first Red Sox pitcher in history with two 30-save seasons.
Fielding percentage: .986, 2nd in AL
Errors: 80, 13th in AL
The Red Sox made the second-fewest miscues among AL teams, and they finished second behind the Blue Jays in defensive efficiency. Team fielding metrics can be unreliable, but one correlation is telling: the Jays' and Sox's staffs, backed by the league's best gloves, were statistically the league's two strongest.
1B Kevin Youkilis, 1.000, 1st in AL (first base)
2B Dustin Pedroia, .990, T-3rd in AL (second base)
No glove was more valuable to the 2007 Red Sox than the one belonging to Coco Crisp. Boston's star center fielder saved more runs than any other American Leaguer at his position, measured by a metric invented by Baseball Prospectus. According to fielding runs above average (RAA), his glove was 23 runs better than the average player at his position, which would have him vying with Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Detroit's Curtis Granderson for the Gold Glove Award. Meanwhile, Youkilis set a record for fielding percentage by a first baseman, going 1,079 errorless chances at first base in 135 games and breaking the previous 85-year-old previous record of .999, set in 1921.
Game by game
April 13: Red Sox 10, Angels 1 -- Wakefield, Mirabelli batter Halos
April 14: Red Sox 8, Angels 0 -- Schilling deals another scoreless eight
April 16: Red Sox 7, Angels 2 -- Big Papi propels Sox on Patriots Day
Aug. 6: Angels 4, Red Sox 2 -- Sox drop Schilling's return
Aug. 7: Angels 10, Red Sox 4 -- Angels rally against Wakefield
Aug. 8: Red Sox 9, Angels 6 -- Boston foils brooms, breaks out bats
Aug. 17: Red Sox 8, Angels 4 -- Buchholz wins in debut
Aug. 17: Angels 7, Red Sox 5 -- Gagne, bullpen hurt by Vlad
Aug. 18: Red Sox 10, Angels 5 -- Papi slams Weaver, Halos
Aug. 19: Angels 3, Red Sox 1 -- Sox fall flat against Saunders
As regular-season play wrapped up in the AL, one burning question remained for the four playoff teams: who would play whom? Conventional wisdom had it that the Red Sox wouldn't have the same kind of trouble against the Angels like the Yankees, who dropped six of nine games against the Halos. Indeed, Boston went 6-4 against Los Angeles, outscoring the Angels, 64-42. Ortiz did the most damage, going 13-for-36 in nine games, with three doubles and four homers, the last a titanic grand slam off Jered Weaver. Boston's Curt Schilling posted a 3.21 ERA in his staff-leading two wins against the AL West champs. Los Angeles' Joe Saunders, in turn, went 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA against the Sox.
vs. Cubs: 0-0
vs. D-backs: 2-1
vs. Padres: 2-1
vs. Rockies: 1-2
vs. Yankees: 8-10
vs. Indians: 5-2
vs. Angels: 6-4
Boston's season series with New York was a back-and-forth affair, featuring a late April sweep for the Red Sox and a late August sweep for Yankees. After winning the first two series against the Yankees, the Sox dropped the last four. The Sox won season series against the Indians and Angels, and they played the Diamondbacks and the Padres during Interleague Play in a pair of West Coast swings in mid-June. Overall, the Sox were 44-40 against teams with records above .500.
Matsuzaka (0 G, 0-0, -.-- ERA, 0 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K)
Schilling (15 G, 15 GS, 8-2, 2.06 ERA, 109.1 IP, 79 H, 22 BB, 104 K)
Tim Wakefield (16 G, 9 GS, 5-5, 6.12 ERA, 64.2 IP, 57 H, 34 BB, 45 K)
Ortiz (.301, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 38 G, 143 AB, .383 OBP, .552 SLG)
Manny Ramirez (.257, 20 HR, 48 RBI, 81 G, 307 AB, .353 OBP, .492 SLG)
Lowell (.196, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 15 G, 46 AB, .275 OBP, .348 SLG)
Jason Varitek (.254, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 39 G, 142 AB, .310 OBP, .521 SLG)
J.D. Drew (.233, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 27 G, 86 AB, .320 OBP, .349 SLG)
Each of the Red Sox's projected 1-2-3 playoff starters is known as a big-game pitcher. Their reputations are well deserved. Beckett turned in one of the most memorable postseason performances of all time in the 2003 World Series, throwing a complete-game shutout against the Yankees in the deciding game for the Marlins. Matsuzaka's exploits in the Japanese Koshien tournament are legendary in Japan, and Dice-K also defeated Cuba in the gold-medal game of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. Schilling's postseason performances, spanning more than a decade with three teams, are overshadowed by the mythic status he gained by beating the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2004 AL Championship Series.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.