CHICAGO -- In each of their previous six games, they had failed to score more than four runs. In the series opener, it was all they could do to muster four hits, only one after the fourth inning.
So when the Red Sox came out in the first inning Wednesday night and started driving the ball all over U.S. Cellular Field, there was reason to believe that, finally, they were ready to end the offensive drought.
"We thought that maybe this was the night we'd break out,'' said John Farrell after a 14-inning, 6-4 win had been secured.
The inning was filled with all kinds of firsts. The first RBI of the season for Xander Bogaerts, who singled home leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia (double). First hit with runners in scoring position for Bogaerts this season. And finally, the first first-inning run of the season.
But after David Ortiz followed the single by Bogaerts with a single of his own, it was more of the same.
More and more, on and on.
After the three straight hits, it was if the Red Sox had used up their nightly allotment.
The next three hitters went down in order, stranding two, on their way a game total of 16. Even more incredibly, the Red Sox would not collect another hit of any kind -- at all -- until a swinging bunt by Jonny Gomes in the ninth inning, a ball that traveled a grand total of 60 or so feet from the plate.
In between the Ortiz single in the first and the roller by Gomes in the ninth, there were plenty of baserunners, thanks to a White Sox bullpen which pitched as though it had lost a bet, handing out walks with alarming frequency.
Starter John Danks walked four in six innings. But the White Sox were just getting started. There were four walks in the eighth that, in conjunction with a sacrifice fly by A.J. Pierzynski, produced a run which narrowed the White Sox' lead to 3-2.
In the ninth, it was more of the same as two more walks, a wild pitch and yet another sac fly -- this one from Grady Sizemore -- produced another run, this one tying the game.
But the hits? All dried up.
Even in the 11th when the Red Sox went ahead 4-3 and seemed pointed in the direction of a stunning comeback win -- Edward Mujica would negate that when he gave back the lead in the bottom of the inning -- the Sox once again used the formula of a walk, a hit batsman, and you guessed it, one more sacrifice fly, courtesy of Gomes.
The next hit of any sort came in the 13th from Pedroia and, like the one from Gomes four innings earlier, it, too, never left the infield, as it skipped off the glove of shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
Not until Jackie Bradley Jr. drove a double down the right field line in the top of the 14th did the Red Sox get an honest-to-goodness hit onto the outfield grass.
And there was this: after the run-scoring single by Bogaerts in the first inning, the next hit with a runner in scoring position was the dribbler by Gomes. The only hit with a runner in scoring position was Bradley's as the Sox went a woeful 3-for-17 with RISP.
Between Ortiz's single in the first and Bradley's game-winner -- which came against utlility infielder Leury Garcia, since Robin Ventura had gone through his entire bullpen in a futile search for someone, anyone, to throw the ball over the plate -- the Sox had had 59 (!!!) plate appearances without a hit making it out of the infield.
"It means,'' deadpanned Farrell, "we had a lot of opportunities.''
As frustrating as it was, this was a return to the grinding mentality that the Sox displayed last year. Sure, they didn't come up with hits, but they took walks and extended innings.
Eventually, the dam broke.
"This is a group that isn't going to roll over,'' said Farrell. "It isn't going to cash it in. That was the case again tonight, all the way through. Once again, these guys don't give up.''
Now the trick is turn an ugly win into the start of something bigger.
"Crazy game, but a big win for us,'' said Pedroia. "You've got to keep trying to fight, trying to score and keep playing. Guys grinded. We could have lost that game as easily as we won it, so hopefully it makes us come together and play better and things start going our way.''