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The Narrative Of The 2013 MLB Season

The Boston Red Sox were coming off a disastrous last-place finish in 2012. The early part of the 2013 MLB season in Boston was marked by tragedy—a bomb going off at the end of the Boston Marathon. That attack started the slogan “Boston Strong” in response. Whether it was connected to what happened on the baseball field is anyone’s guess, but the Red Sox gradually became what seemed like a team of destiny. And they won the World Series.

David Ortiz led the way for the American League’s most potent offense. Big Papi batted .309, hit 30 homers and drove in 103 runs. Jacoby Ellsbury posted a .355 on-base percentage and stole 52 bases. Dustin Pedroia’s OBP was .372 and he played a sparkling second base. Shane Victorino was a good all-around contributor in the outfield. The starting pitching was anchored by 15-game winner Jon Lester, but the real key to Red Sox pitching came at the end. Koji Uehara was a lights-out closer, with a dazzling 1.09 ERA.

There were four good teams in the AL East, including the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t until late summer that Boston really started to get control of the division, pushing out to a 5 ½ game lead by Labor Day. Everyone except the Rays fell by the wayside, and the Red Sox pulled away and clinched both the division and the top seed in the American League with room to spare.

The star power in the AL Central—for that matter in all of baseball—came out of Detroit. Max Scherzer won the Cy Young Award with a record of 21-3 and an ERA of 2.90. Scherzer keyed up a strong pitching staff that included 14-game winner Anibal Sanchez, whose ERA ended up at 2.57. Justin Verlander and Doug Fister combined to win 27 more. Drew Smyly was one of the game’s best setup men in the bullpen.

Detroit’s bats included Prince Fielder, who hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs, along with .300 hitters in Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta. But the man who lifted the Tiger offense was Miguel Cabrera.

Switching from first base to third base so his team could sign Fielder didn’t stop Cabrera from having a historic season. With a .348 batting average, 44 home runs and 137 RBIs, he became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967. Even with that, there was still a heated debate over the MVP award. Mike Trout, a rookie with the Los Angeles Angels, had a .432 OBP, .577 slugging percentage, and was the favorite of the sabermetrics guys. But Cabrera got the nod as the AL MVP.

Detroit was in a close race with Cleveland for the first half of the season. Like the Red Sox, the Tigers made their move in late summer and brought home the division title with room to spare.

Oakland got a big year from Josh Donaldson. The third baseman hit .301, with 24 homers and 93 RBIs and finished third in the MVP voting. He was the leader of a good lineup. Brandon Moss, Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp combined to hit 78 more home runs. A’s pitching was led by 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who turned back the clock with an 18-win season and a 2.65 ERA. The A’s were top-3 in the American League for both runs scored and staff ERA.

In the early part of September, Oakland finally shook Texas and went on to win the AL West. The Rangers, along with the Rays and Indians were in a fight to the finish for what were then two wild-card spots.

Cleveland was in their first year under the guidance of Terry Francona. Texas had Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish anchoring their rotation. But Tampa Bay had a little bit more. Evan Longoria hit 32 homers. Matt Moore won 17 games in a rotation where David Price and Alex Cobb also had good years.

The Rays won a tiebreaker game with the Rangers, then went to Cleveland and won the wild-card game itself. Tampa would get a crack at Boston in the Division Series, while Oakland and Detroit paired up in a rematch of an ALDS battle from 2012.

In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds pulled away from the pack. The division as a whole had control of the race for the wild-card spots by the All-Star break. All that was left was seeing who could win the NL Central.

St. Louis had the NL’s best offense and they had players who drove the ball into the gaps. Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter combined to hit 99 doubles. They each nearly batted .320 and finished 3-4 in the MVP voting. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran provided more traditional power, combining to 44 home runs. Adam Wainwright finished second in the NL Cy Young race with a 19-win season. Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn won 15 games apiece.

Pittsburgh had the National League’s MVP. Andrew McCutchen hit .317, popped 21 homers, stole 27 bases, drove in 84 runs, and played great defense. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez hit 36 bombs and was a 100-RBI man. Francisco Liriano anchored the rotation with 16 wins. And a lights-out bullpen combo of Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli made the Pirates almost impossible to beat if they had a lead after seven innings.

Cincinnati’s offense was led by Joey Votto, and his .435 OBP, and Jay Bruce’s 30 home runs. The Reds joined the Cardinals and Pirates in the race to the finish. Over the final two weeks, St Louis finally outfought both rivals and clinched both the division and the top seed in the National League.

Pittsburgh got homefield advantage for the wild-card game and then took advantage by knocking off Cincinnati. Just like that, the Pirates and Cardinals were set to meet in the Division Series.

Out west, Clayton Kershaw was having a Cy Young season in Los Angeles, winning 16 games, posting a 1.83 ERA, and logging 236 innings. Kershaw was backed up by reliable starters Hyun Jin-Run and Zack Greinke, along with the lights-out Kenley Jansen in the bullpen. The Dodgers had the league’s second-best staff ERA. Adrian Gonzalez led the offense with a .293 batting average, 22 homers and 100 RBIs.

Los Angeles was in a close race with Arizona at the All-Star break, but blew it wide open in August. By Labor Day, the Dodgers were 11 ½ games in front and cruised into the postseason as the 2-seed.

The NL’s best pitching was coming from Atlanta. A balanced rotation with no weak points gave the bullpen plenty of opportunities. The combination of David Carpenter (1.78 ERA) and Craig Kimbrel (50 saves, 1.21 ERA) was dominant at the end of games.

The National League’s fourth-best offense was led by Freddie Freeman. The first baseman posted a .319 average, 23 homers, 109 ribbies and a top-5 MVP finish. Chris Johnson hit .321 at third base, while Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Justin Upton all hit 20-plus homers. Atlanta took control of the NL East early and pulled away from Washington with plenty of room to spare. They would play the Dodgers in the NL Division Series round.

When the playoffs started, the Boston bats were ready. They dropped 19 runs on Tampa Bay in the first two games at Fenway Park and ultimately closed out the series in four games. Los Angeles also enjoyed an offensive eruption. The Dodgers beat the Braves in four games, scoring 23 runs in their three wins.

St. Louis and Detroit were pushed the wall. Each team took the opener, then lost two straight. For the Cardinals, their pitching took over, and allowed just two Pirate runs over Games 4 & 5 in surviving the series. The Tigers won a wild 8-6 affair at home in Game 4. In Game 5, Detroit’s stars were shining. Cabrera hit a two-run blast, Verlander threw a shutout, and the Tigers punched their ALCS ticket with a 3-0 win.

Detroit kept that momentum going into the ALCS. Sanchez outdueled Lester to win the opener at Fenway Park. The Tigers led 5-1 in the eighth inning of Game 2 and looked ready to put a stranglehold on this series.

Then David Ortiz arrived. Boston loaded the bases. Ortiz unloaded them with a stunning grand slam. Boston won in extra innings, then won a pair of tight one-run affairs in Detroit. The Red Sox returned to Fenway with a 3-2 series lead.

In Game 6, Boston trailed 2-1 in the seventh inning. They loaded the bases. This time it was Victorino’s turn to hit a grand slam. Uehara, dominant throughout this series, closed out the pennant.

St. Louis kept their own pitching momentum going into the NLCS. They won the opener over L.A. 3-2 in extra innings and followed it up with a 1-0 shutout. The Cardinals were able to grab a win on the road and bring the series back to Busch Stadium with a 3-2 lead. In Game 6, rookie Michael Wacha was brilliant. The Cardinal bats rocked Kershaw. A 9-0 rout sent St. Louis to the World Series.

So, we were down to the two best teams in baseball and a rematch of World Series battles from 1946, 1967 and 2004. Boston jumped on St. Louis with a Game 1 win. But the Cardinals took Game 2. They won an extra-inning thriller in Game 3. And they were leading in the sixth inning of Game 4. It was time for another big Red Sox moment

The hero this time was outfielder Jonny Gomes. He hit a three-run blast that gave the Red Sox a 4-2 lead that stood up. Lester outdueled Wainwright the next night to win Game 5, 3-1. And back at home, in front a raucous Fenway crowd, Boston got an easy 6-1 win to close out the championship.

Red Sox fans had waited 86 years, from 1918 to 2004 to win a World Series. Now, they had three crowns in a decade.