Ted Williams was the left fielder when the Red Sox last won 100 games. His close friends Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr played shortstop and second base, respectively, and Dom DiMaggio was in center field.
It was 1946. Williams and many of his teammates had just returned from military service that season and post-war life was grand. The Sox finished 104-50 and won the American League going away.
The Sox fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven-game World Series. But Williams, Pesky, and the rest were all in their 20s and the Red Sox looked every bit a powerhouse that would reign for years.
Instead it took 72 years for the Sox to win 100 games again. It was a hurdle Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Pudge Fisk, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and all the rest couldn’t clear.
It finally happened again on Wednesday night when the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 1-0, before a crowd of 35,178 at Fenway Park.
The 100-46 Red Sox have 16 games remaining to chase down the franchise record of 105 victories set in 1912. Then comes a thicket of playoff games that will define the season.
“We’ve got bigger goals, honestly,” said Alex Cora, the first rookie manger to win 100 games since Dusty Baker led the 1993 San Francisco Giants to a 103-59 record. “Today we got closer. We’re going to keep playing.”
For now, enjoy the journey. David Price (15-6) was brilliant for seven innings before the bullpen held Toronto down. Craig Kimbrel, No. 46, struck out Dwight Smith Jr. to end the game and record his 39th save.
“Happy to be a part of it,” Price said. “The main goal now is to win 101.”
But there was no denying the significance of 100 wins as Price stood in the same clubhouse where Williams once practiced his swing.
“Pretty crazy,” he said. “As historic a franchise as the Red Sox are, it’s pretty cool. They’ve had a lot of really good teams there.”
The Sox are a season-best 54 games over .500 and reduced their magic number to clinch the American League East to seven with the Yankees losing at Minnesota.
The Sox, who have won three straight, have a 10-game lead on the Yankees with 16 to play.
Price retired the first 13 batters he faced. He allowed three hits, all singles, and struck out seven without a walk. Toronto advanced one runner beyond first base with the lefthander on the mound and never came close to scoring.
Price has a 1.56 earned run average and 0.83 WHIP in nine starts since the All-Star break. The Red Sox have three quality starts in their last 22 games dating to Aug. 19 and Price is responsible for all three.
“What he’s done has been lights out,” first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “Everybody knows what DP’s capable of. He’s got that every time he walks to the mound.”
The Sox are 21-7 in games Price has started this season, winning 18 of the last 21. With Chris Sale limited to six innings since July 28, Price has been the ace the Sox needed.
“It’s big,” Price said. “I don’t look at it that way. I expect to go out there and throw the baseball like this every five days. It’s good that I’ve been able to do that since [Sale] has been out. He’s back now and we expect him to be himself.”
Cora threw a changeup at Toronto in the eighth inning, sending knuckleballer Steven Wright into the game to replace Price.
There was trouble right away when Rowdy Tellez doubled to the gap in left and Danny Jansen drew a four-pitch walk.
Kevin Pillar pinch hit and struck out. When Billy McKinney grounded to the left side, the Sox took the out at second base.
With Tellez at third, Devon Travis hit the ball hard to right field but Mookie Betts broke in to make the catch.
Despite putting eight men on base, Wright has pitched five scoreless innings of relief since being activated off the disabled list earlier this month.
“I’m going to have to learn how to look away knowing that he’s going to find it,” Cora said.
Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez allowed 11 earned runs over 16 innings in three previous starts against the Red Sox this season. But the righthander was sharp this time, allowing one run on three hits over seven innings.
The run was stitched together out of rags.
Moreland drew a leadoff walk in the fifth inning then was forced at second when Rafael Devers grounded to the right side.
Cora called a hit-and-run on the next pitch and Brock Holt sent a slow single into left field, taking advantage of the hole left when shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. broke to cover second.
Sandy Leon, who last drove in a run on Aug. 14, was allowed to hit and popped up to right field. He is hitless in his last 27 at-bats.
With Jackie Bradley Jr. up, Sanchez threw a wild pitch and Devers scored.
The Sox had not won a game without an RBI since Sept. 19, 2017, a 1-0 victory at Baltimore also decided on a wild pitch.