Red Sox Memories: Boston bats break out for 14-run first inning

BOSTON, MA - JULY 17: Johnny Damon #18 of the Boston Red Sox extends his hitting streak to 29 games with a double in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on July 17, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 17: Johnny Damon #18 of the Boston Red Sox extends his hitting streak to 29 games with a double in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on July 17, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox set a record in 2003 when they scored 14 runs in the first inning of a game against the Florida Marlins.

Some say that one of the keys to victory is to strike early and often. Never was that more evident than when the Boston Red Sox obliterated the Florida Marlins by piling up 14 runs in the first inning, essentially putting the game away in the opening frame.

It was June 27, 2003 and the Red Sox were about halfway through a 95-win season that would result in a Wild Card spot. That year would end with heartbreak when Aaron Boone‘s walk-off home run in Game 7 of the ALCS sent the Yankees to the World Series but this mid-season game against the Marlins serves as a reminder of how dangerous that Red Sox lineup was capable of being.

Boston didn’t draw first blood, as the Marlins tagged Byung-Hyun Kim with a run in the top of the first inning. That lead would be short-lived.

Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the inning with a double and was quickly driven home on a Todd Walker single to center to tie the game. A Nomar Garciaparra double preceded a three-run homer by Manny Ramirez that cleared the Monster seats in left field to give the Red Sox the lead. David Ortiz followed with a double and Kevin Millar‘s base hit sent him home.

That would be it for Marlins starter Carl Pavano. The right-hander was given the hook with his team trailing 5-1 before he could record a single out. He was still responsible for Millar on first and would end up being charged with six runs.

Florida’s bullpen didn’t have it any easier. Michael Tejera entered in relief and promptly allowed four hits, including a triple to Damon, plus a walk. Tejera was pulled without recording an out and was charged for five runs.

The Red Sox scored 10 runs before making an out in the game, setting a major league record. Garciaparra popped out to the catcher in foul territory to mercifully grant the Marlins an out from their third pitcher of the game, right-hander Allen Levrault.

Boston’s bats were far from done though. Ramirez singled to put men on the corners and an Ortiz walk loaded the bases. A sac fly to shallow center from Millar gave the Marlins pitching staff their second out but it also drove in another run. A better throw to the plate would have had the runner out at home to escape the inning but Juan Pierre‘s weak throw bounced well short and skipped over the catcher’s head, allowing Walker to slide in safely.

Trot Nixon walked to reload the bases and Bill Mueller doubled into the left-center field gap to drive in two more runs. Jason Varitek walked to leave the bases juiced for Damon’s third plate appearance of the inning.

Damon slashed an opposite field base hit to left for his third hit, leaving him a home run short of the cycle in the first inning. Nixon would score easily but Mueller got a bit too greedy. He tried to score from second on a ball hit to shallow left at Fenway and that plan predictably didn’t work out. He was out by a mile to finally end the inning.

The damage in the opening frame would end with 14 runs on 13 hits and four walks. Surprisingly, the Red Sox only hit one home run in the inning, although Damon’s triple nearly got out near the Pesky Pole in right field. Fenway is known more for doubles and Boston tallied four of them in the inning.

The 14 runs are the most scored by an American League team in the first inning of a game. It wasn’t a record for any inning though. That record also belongs to the Red Sox for their 17-run seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers in June 1953.

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It’s hard to believe an offensive explosion of this magnitude without the opposing team committing an error. Often times a huge inning comes in part due to the defense opening the door. That wasn’t the case here. The damage would have been mitigated if Pierre made a better throw on Millar’s sac fly but he wasn’t charged with an error. Most of the hits were stung hard with no clear examples of what you might consider a “lucky” hit.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of contributions from Garciaparra, who entered the game hitting .343 but went 1-for-4 before he was removed for a defensive replacement.

The Marlins weren’t exactly a rival considering this was a rare visit to Fenway for this National League team but plenty of bad blood stemmed from this blowout. The Marlins accused the Red Sox of running up the score and were furious that their opponent sent runners home on sac flies with the game well in hand. Red Sox reliever Hector Almonte was ejected for throwing behind a batter, which prompted both benches to empty.

Boston would end up winning in a 25-8 route. Damon led the way with five hits from the top of the lineup while Walker added four from the No. 2 spot. Ortiz and Mueller would both homer later in the game.

The 25 runs were the second-most scored in a game in franchise history, trailing only the 29 runs the Red Sox scored against the St. Louis Browns in June 1950. The 28 hits against the Marlins tied a franchise record.

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Boston would end up leading the majors by a comfortable margin with 961 runs scored that season. This offensive onslaught wasn’t a fluke but it was historic. It’s extremely rare for a club to bludgeon their opponent with this many runs, let alone with more than half coming in the same inning. The Marlins couldn’t wait to put this disaster behind them but this is one game that Red Sox fans won’t forget.