2013 Boston Red Sox
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|2013 Boston Red Sox
|Major league affiliations
|2013 Boston Red Sox
Clinched Division: September 20, 2013, vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Managed by John Farrell
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2013 Boston Red Sox surprised most observers by having the best record in the major leagues in the month of April. They went 18-8 after one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history in 2012, when a club expected to compete under new manager Bobby Valentine finished in last place in a sea of dissension and recrimination. Valentine resigned after the season and was replaced by former pitching coach John Farrell, who had managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two years. The Sox had to give up infielder Mike Aviles to pry away Farrell, who still had a year to go on his contract, from the Blue Jays. A number of other changes took place over the off-season, such as the signings of free agents Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to plug large holes in the line-up. The biggest improvement was on the mound, which had been a disaster area the previous season. In April Clay Buchholz went 5-0 and Jon Lester 4-0 to anchor the rotation, with Dempster also pitching well and John Lackey showing signs that he was on the comeback trail. The bullpen was also excellent, even if another off-season acquisition, closer Joel Hanrahan, struggled and then was placed on the disabled list. Andrew Bailey, whose previous season had been marred by injuries, stepped into the breach and was well seconded by a pair of Japanese hurlers, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. On the offensive side, the biggest contributor was OF Daniel Nava, who hit for both average and power out of the second spot in the batting order.
Of course, two other events dominated headlines in Boston that month, first the end of the Sox's streak of 820 consecutive sell-outs at Fenway Park, falling victim to the team's poor performance the previous season, combined with a larger-than-usual number of home dates that month; the Red Sox did take advantage of all the home games in building up their April record, and that in turn would likely mean that non sell-outs would be the exception the rest of the way. The second event was the tragic bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15th, a few minutes after the Sox had ended their traditional Patriots Day late-morning home game. The Red Sox proved to be a point of stability in the hectic days that followed, which included a full lock-down of the city on April 19th while the two perpetrators were being tracked down by police. The end of the stand-off was celebrated at Fenway Park the next day, with DH David Ortiz giving a rousing pre-game speech and then making a triumphant return to the line-up from a heel injury; when the month ended, he had a 22-game hitting streak going, dating back to the previous year; that streak would reach 27 games before ending on May 8th, having lasted 309 calendar days because of the off-season and an injury that had cut short his previous season. The Sox's 18 wins in April tied a club record set in 1998 and 2003, while Buchholz was named the American League's Pitcher of the Month.
The Red Sox sputtered a bit at the start of May, as they were victim of a closer problem, as had been the case in 2012. Joel Hanrahan had been placed on the disabled list after a couple of poor outings in early April, but Andrew Bailey had stepped ably into the breech. When Hanrahan was ready to come back on April 28th, it was Bailey's turn to be unable to pitch, and he was finally placed on the DL himself in early May, retroactive to April 29th. Hanrahan regained his old spot in the meantime and recorded a save, but had to leave in his next outing with a muscle problem in his forearm, which turned out to be the sign of a much more serious injury, of the season-ending variety. John Farrell now had no choice but to go one deeper in his depth chart, promoting Junichi Tazawa to the closer role. In the meantime, save opportunities had been fewer, as the Red Sox were swept in three games by the Texas Rangers May 3-5, although they were still in first place, but they were caught by the New York Yankees a couple of days later. Farrell eventually settled on Koji Uehara as his closer, but throughout it all, the team kept on winning, proving that its solid first month had not been a fluke. At the end of June, their record stood at 50-34, 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, and best in the American League.
After withstanding a push by the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays in July, the Red Sox managed to hold on to first place at the end of the month, and retain the lead for almost all of August, except for a few days when Tampa was in a tie for first. At the trading deadline, the Red Sox pulled off a big trade, acquiring starting pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal that also involved the Detroit Tigers and cost them SS José Iglesias, who was having an excellent rookie season. However, regular SS Stephen Drew, an off-season free agent signee, was again healthy, while young Xander Bogaerts was one of the top prospects in the minor leagues at the position, allowing them to roll the dice. Tampa stumbled at the end of the month, allowing the Sox to build their biggest lead of the year, 5 1/2 games on September 3rd. The next day, they demonstrated that they were a force to be reckoned with when they completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers, who held first place in the AL Central, with a 20-4 win at Fenway Park. In that game, Ortiz went 3 for 4, collecting the 2,000th hit of his career on a 6th-inning double, while also banging out two homers. Those were part of a team record-tying 8 homer performance, with Will Middlebrooks hitting a grand slam and Daniel Nava a two-run homer in the 8-run 6th, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Ryan Lavarnway also going deep. They then traveled to the Big Apple to play the Yankees for a four-game series, and struck a deep gash into their hated rivals' postseason hopes by taking the first three games. They got a key 9th-inning steal from pinch-runner Quintin Berry with Mariano Rivera on the mound to force extra innings in the first game on September 5th, then won in the 10th. The next day, they were down 8-3 going into the 7th, but got a grand slam from Napoli and a two-run homer by Victorino in the 8th to score 9 unanswered runs and win, 12-8. The third contest was another slugfest, won by 13-9 after they had built an early 12-3 lead as they hit four more homers, two more by Napoli, and one each by Jonny Gomes and Bogaerts, the latter the first major league long ball by the top prospect. However, while this was happening, the Sox got some bad news when CF Ellsbury suffered a foot injury that would put him out for an undetermined period. He was leading the majors in stolen bases with 52 and the team in runs scored with 89 at the time.
On September 19th, the Red Sox rode an outstanding start by John Lackey, who pitched a two-hit complete game, to a 3-1 win over the Orioles that clinched a postseason slot for the team for the first time since 2009. At that point, their magic number to clinch the division title was down to 1. The clincher came the next day, when they defeated the Blue Jays, 6-3, behind Jon Lester. The Red Sox finished with a record of 97-65, the most regular season wins for the team since their 2004 Championship Season. They easily disposed of the wild card Rays in the ALDS, three games to one, then met the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Once again, they proved to be the stronger team, getting around the Tigers' advantage in starting pitching by pounding on their bullpen in the late innings. They then faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series in a repeat of the 2004 World Series match-up that ended the Sox's long championship drought. Contrary to that year and to 2007, the Red Sox did not sweep the Series, even falling into an early two games to one deficit. However, after replacing catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia with back-up David Ross, they won the next three contests relatively easily and clinched the team's third championship in ten years. David Ortiz, who proved almost unstoppable at the plate, was named the Series' MVP
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia
- AL Gold Glove: Dustin Pedroia (2B) and Shane Victorino (RF)
- AL Silver Slugger Award: David Ortiz (DH)
- Associated Press: "Red Sox beat Blue Jays, claim first AL East crown since 2007", ESPN.com, September 21, 2013
- The Boston Globe: For Boston: From Worst to First, the Improbable Dream Season of the 2013 Red Sox, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2013. ISBN 978-1600788925.
- The Boston Globe: Livin' the Dream: A Celebration of the World Champion 2013 Boston Red Sox, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2013. ISBN 978-1600789854
- Ian Browne: "Remembering 'Boston Strong' 2013 champs", mlb.com, April 17, 2023.