If Red Sox repeat after atrocious start, they will literally make history

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The Red Sox will face an unprecedented task however they bring April to a close on Tuesday night, because no World Series champion in the wild card era has started May in a deeper hole.

Win or lose against the A's at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have already guaranteed themselves a historically wretched start. At best, they'll enter May with a record of 13-17 (.433), and unless they win by at least 31 runs on Tuesday, they'll own a negative run differential, too.

Since baseball expanded its playoff field in 1995, only two teams have finished April with losing records and won the World Series. The 2002 Angels went 11-14 (.440) and a year later the Marlins started 14-15 (.483). Outside of that, every other champion has opened better than .500, ranging from the 2001 Diamondbacks (13-12, .520) to the 2016 Cubs (17-5, .773).

The 2018 Red Sox own the second-best start on the list after playing .750 ball while going 21-7 last year.

It goes without saying that the Red Sox have dug themselves a nice hole that only a sustained run of success will allow them to escape. Manager Alex Cora acknowledged as much after Monday's 9-4 victory over the A's.

"It's just one game," he said. "I'm not going to get caught up in 'Are we getting better? Or we will be better.' It was just one day. We played good today."

The reasons for the poor start are extensive. The Red Sox rank 11th in the American League in both runs and ERA. They're 12th in home runs and home runs allowed. Their starters have won only four games and J.D. Martinez is their only batter hitting over .300.

If they're looking for inspiration, the 2003 Marlins wouldn't be a bad place to start. Florida followed a losing April with a losing May (12-16), albeit with a positive run differential that suggested some bad luck. After a 19-29 start, the Marlins roared to a 72-42 finish that equates to a 102-win pace. It didn't hurt that Florida's resurgence roughly coincided with the arrival of a 20-year-old prospect by the name of Miguel Cabrera, who drove in 62 runs in 87 games before blasting four homers and driving in 12 in the postseason.

We should also note that while no World Series winner since 1995 has started as poorly as the Red Sox, six have compiled months as poor as 13-17 later in the season, including the 2017 Astros, who went 11-17 in August, and both the 1996 and 2000 Yankees, who went 13-17 in August and September, respectively.

Should the Red Sox lose on Tuesday and fall to 12-18, they'd have to dial back to the 1980 Phillies to find a team that won it all after playing .400 ball through April. Only six champions have opened worse -- the 1979 Pirates (7-11, .389) and then five pre-1935 clubs when the average team only played 13 games in April.

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