The last few seasons have been somewhat of a rude awakening for the Boston Red Sox. Having grown used to recent successes of the 2004 and 2007 World Series victories, fans had gotten accustomed to the high wave of domination and success that the team has experienced. But since then the team has had to face several crushing realities.
The New York Yankees briefly returned to form while the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays also experienced surges of talent. Having missed out on the MLB playoffs in the last three years, the Red Sox saw their record-breaking streak of home sellout crowds come to an end earlier this month.
But in the face of such a painful decline, the Boston Red Sox have since learned how to play baseball again and are off to a great 2013 start, leading the MLB with a 18-7 record. Could the Red Sox finally be back in contention, using their third manager in three years?
If the team keeps this current run of form going, the answer is a clear yes. Leading the charge is current ace pitcher Clay Buchholz. In fine form with a ERA of 1.19, the pitcher has a strong fastball and can use his changeup and curveball to great effect. Although his young career has its ups and downs, 2013 could be the year that Clay Buchholz leads his team to glory and helps himself to an AL Cy Young award.
At the plate, few hitters are as imposing as “Big Papi”, also known as David Ortiz. The quintessential slugger has only played in 8 games, rejoining the team just over a week ago after enduring a heel injury in the spring. The Red Sox have truly hit form with Ortiz in the lineup and have won 7 of the 8 games he has played in. His .516 batting average clearly displays the value of the experienced star.
But the AL East has long been known as the most competitive and challenging division in baseball, and the early signs show that this campaign could be a long battle for supremacy between the Yankees, Orioles, and Red Sox.
The New York Yankees came into this season full of huge question marks surrounding the availability of future Hall of Famers Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Both are expected to return in the latter half of the year, though their role at that point will be heavily analyzed.
But the team is off to a solid 15-9 start behind a group of guys with 35 home runs this year, which is 2nd best in the MLB. Robinson Cano has picked up the slack, knocking in 7 home runs, while newcomers Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells have done their part to support the team, both already at 6 home runs this year. Although their pitching is currently average and has to be seen as an Achilles heel for the Yankees, with Andy Pettite and C.C. Sabbathia owning the mound, this team is a match for anyone.
The Baltimore Orioles were the darlings of baseball last year, earning a surprise wild card appearance, and have continued their winning ways with a 15-10 record in this young season. Chris Davis is doing his best, second in the MLB with 9 home runs and powering with a .349 average. Several other Orioles have been hitting away home runs too and the team has a strong 30 home runs this season, showing that they can hit with power as well.
Clearly, the race for the 2013 AL East crown has a long way to go, but early results suggest this to be an exciting and tight race that will endure throughout the summer. I would like to see the Boston Red Sox return to prominence, but the New York Yankees could have the last laugh when their star players return. For the Orioles, hope and the successful season of 2012 shows that they could perhaps be there to spoil the party in late September. It should definitely be a fantastic race!
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