Actor, native New Englander, and Red Sox fan Ben Affleck celebrates his birthday on August 15. In the past, that was perfectly fine, and of no consequence to other Red Sox fans, unless they knew Mr. Affleck personally. Ever since Good Will Hunting came to theaters in 1998, though, the Red Sox have not won once on Ben Affleck's birthday -- in fact, they're 0-15 on this date since the Affleck-penned film released.
Well, they were 0-15, until the Curse of Affleck was finally lifted this past Saturday, when the Red Sox defeated the Mariners 22-10 and snapped the most famous curse in the organization's history. Some of you arguable types might want to claim that the Curse of the Bambino is better known and more significant given its 86-year length. To you, I give you something to think about for a moment: did Babe Ruth ever get to play Batman in a feature film? Don't bother checking IMDb, because the answer is no.
It might have even been lifted thanks to the sacrifice and perseverance of Ben Affleck himself. During the ESPYs, Affleck presented an award to Yankees' legend Derek Jeter, seemingly betraying Red Sox fans everywhere. We hoped he was doing this to restore some balance to the cosmos, to pay off a karmic debt, and it appears that, intentional or not, he's done just that. And you say he's not the hero we need.
Let's go back through those 15 losses, defeats that are much easier to handle now that they no longer represent an ongoing streak of madness.
2014: The Astros, the lowly Astros, were Boston's best chance at ending this affliction. It was not to be, though, even though the Red Sox made it close. Clay Buchholz threw seven innings of two-run ball, striking out nine, but then Edward Mujica gave up a run in the eighth inning and the contest went into extras. Craig Breslow would be the losing pitcher thanks to two runs allowed in the 10th that brought his ERA to 5.11 on the season.
2013: So close. So very close. The Red Sox were leading the Jays 1-0 through six-and-a-half frames, but Toronto scored two in the bottom of the seventh off of Jake Peavy, who was otherwise in fine form. Mark Buehrle only gave up the one run, and the Jays' bullpen, courtesy Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen, shut Boston down the rest of the way to make it 0-14 on Future Batman's birthday.
2012: Who knows if this was due to Affleck or just the nature of the 2012 Red Sox, but the way it went down suggests the former. Aaron Cook -- his time here seems so long ago now, doesn't it? -- was working through a no-hitter until suddenly he wasn't, and the Orioles ended up winning 5-2.
2011: The Red Sox had a day off on the 15th, and were mercifully spared having to deal with forces beyond their comprehension. However, they did lose on the 14th during a west coast game, although, being a Sunday contest, it wasn't the 15th when it ended in Boston. So close to nailing this down as some Final Destination thing, but not close enough to make me that nervous.
2010: Daisuke Matsuzaka strikes out eight Rangers while walking just two, but gives up four runs in 6-2/3 against an unstoppable C.J. Wilson (7-2/3 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 1 R).
2009: Boston once again drops a game to the Rangers, this time in less brilliantly pitched fashion. Brad Penny went 5-2/3 while walking four batters and whiffing six, giving up four of the Rangers' seven runs in the process.
2008: Again, no game. Let's start looking out for this on the day schedules release.
2007: The Devil Rays -- hey, remember that? -- beat Dice-K and the Red Sox 6-5, thanks to a big day from former Red Sox and fellow New England collegiate Carlos Pena's three-run double combined with a balance attack from the middle of the Tampa Bay lineup. Matsuzaka gives up all six runs in his six innings, though, this was well before we were used to that sort of thing.
2006: Boston is shut out by the Mariners and Joel Pineiro, who would join the Red Sox the next season. Wakefield throws a complete-game loss, giving up three runs, two earned, while punching out six and walking none.
2005: It's Curt Schilling's time to lose an Affleck special, but he didn't start. No, this was a Bronson Arroyo game, one in which he pitched six innings, gave up 10 hits, and somehow escaped with just three runs allowed. Chad Bradford and Schilling combined to give it away in relief, though, and Detroit's Jamie Walker nailed down the win in relief with a scoreless frame.
2004: August 15 not only represented a loss for the Red Sox, but it was also the furthest out of first place they ever were in the season, at 10-1/2 games back. It's a good thing this is a localized phenomenon. The Red Sox dropped this one to the White Sox, 5-4, despite Bronson Arroyo out-pitching Mark Buehrle. Boston's bullpen got a little too leaky, and while the Red Sox scored two runs off of Shingo Takatsu, it wasn't enough to secure the come-from-behind win.
2003: Mike Timlin gives up four runs in relief of Jeff Suppan, who had already given up his own four runs in yet another ho-hum, post-deadline start. Jamie Moyer pitched poorly as well, but unlike with the Sox, his bullpen locked things down, giving up just one more run over the last three-plus frames, and giving the Mariners another August 15 win against Boston.
2002: It's Seattle once again, but this time it's Casey Fossum (six strikeouts, two walks, four unearned runs in five innings) losing to a 25-year-old Freddy Garcia. The top and bottom of the Mariners' lineup do all of the damage, with Dan Wilson, Carlos Guillen, Ichiro Suzuki, and Jeff Cirillo driving in one run a piece. Seven of Seattle's nine starters strike out at least once in the game, but it's not enough for Boston.
2001: The stage was set. The opponent? The 2001 Mariners, who won a league-record 116 games. They combined their power to make others lose with Ben Affleck's birthday, which, even at this early stage in the process, was as close to a guaranteed loss as you could get. Throw in that it was also the last full day of Jimy Williams: Red Sox manager, which heralded the arrival of The Joe Kerrigan Regime in Boston, and you've found the Most Obvious Impending Loss In The History Of Baseball.
Is Sandoval really this bad?
Pablo Sandoval is having a rough year at the plate. Is it a fluke, or should we expect this kind of performance for the next four years?
The late Frank Castillo started for the Sox, and gave up five runs in five innings, somehow accomplishing this despite striking out seven hitters. For the record, Frank Castillo struck out fewer than six batters per nine in all of 2001, and that seemed to work for him most days. Baseball is weird.
2000: Tampa Bay's Tanyon Sturtze --a Massachusetts native -- defeated Boston's Jeff Fassero, despite Fassero's 10 strikeout, one walk, one run, six-inning domination. Rich Garces and Hipolito Pichardo gave up a run each before the game was over, while Boston was held to just the one run, driven in by Nomar Garciaparra.
1999: The Red Sox dropped to 65-32 thanks to yet another loss to Seattle, despite a pair of RBI and hits from Nomar, and another base knock and RBI from Brian Daubach, who was hitting .341 with a 1065 OPS at the time. Mark Portugal pitched well, a rarity in a 1999 campaign in which he was released before the playoffs began, but it wasn't enough, thanks to Gil Meche, Jay Buhner, and a 23-year-old Alex Rodriguez.
1998: Here's where it all began. The first of what is now 13-straight losses on August 15. Boston dropped to 71-49 after a 3-2 loss to the Twins, whose win moved them to just 15 games under .500. Mo Vaughn and Mike Stanley drove in Boston's two runs in a game that John Wasdin started. What might be most incredible about this loss is that John Wasdin pitched five innings -- five! -- and didn't give up a single home run. Yet, Boston still came out with an L.