The 1978 Red Sox won 99 games, the club's highest total since their 1946 pennant-winning season. However a single-game, AL East playoff against the Yankees made New York shortstop Bucky Dent an infamous figure in Red Sox history and ended a promising run.
Record: 99-64, 2nd in American League East
Manager: Donald W. Zimmer
In March 1978, after some offseason jockeying for club ownership, the Yawkey Estate sold the Red Sox to a group headed by Jean Yawkey, Haywood Sullivan and Buddy LeRoux. Sullivan had taken Dick O'Connell's place as general manager following the 1977 season.
Over the winter, the Red Sox also addressed weaknesses on their roster and signed 1977 World Series MVP Mike Torrez while also acquiring Massachusetts native Jerry Remy and all-star pitcher Dennis Eckersley in separate trades.
By mid-May, the Red Sox had secured a firm grasp on first place with the help of Jim Rice, who started the season on a tear and hit 16 home runs by the end of the month. Rice kept hitting and earned the 1978 AL MVP after becoming the first American Leaguer to collect 400 total bases in a single-season since Joe DiMaggio did so in 1937.
By July 5 the Red Sox held a 10-game lead in the American League East and seemed indomitable. However, tensions persisted despite the on-field success and on June 15, after Bernie Carbo was traded to the Indians, Bill Lee cleaned out his locker. Lee criticized team management and insisted that he was quitting, though he returned the next day.
The Red Sox recovered from a sluggish July and entered September leading the AL East by seven games over the second-place Yankees. However, Boston had been left short-handed by late August injuries to Jerry Remy and Dwight Evans. Having lost five of their previous seven games, the Red Sox prepared to host New York in an early September, four-game series at Fenway Park. The Yankees promptly swept the Red Sox and outscored them by a 42-9 margin in a series that came to be known as "The Boston Massacre."
Despite squandering what had once been a 14-game lead over New York, the Red Sox found a second wind and won 12 of their final 14 regular-season games. The Yankees stayed hot as well and won seven in a row near the end, setting up a single-game playoff at Fenway Park on October 2. The Red Sox initially led the do-or-die game 2-0 but the Yankees came back thanks in part to a now-infamous home run by New York's Bucky Dent in the top of the seventh. Boston mounted a comeback and cut the deficit to a single run, but their chances were snuffed out by Yankee right-fielder Lou Piniella's sun-blinded snag of a Rick Burleson line drive in the ninth inning. For the third time in seven seasons, the Red Sox had suffered an agonizing last-minute loss.