Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, right, and teammate Mike Carp celebrate after the Red Sox clinched the AL East with a 6-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game at Fenway Park, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, in Boston.
AL East champions!
Nobody knew what to expect from the Red Sox going into the 2013 season. The prior year saw them post their worst record since 1994. They were on their third manager in three years and had a lot of new faces in the clubhouse. So, how did they do it? How did they go from worst-to-first in a division as robust as the AL East? Here are five reasons why the Boston Red Sox beat out the Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays and Yankees and are back in the postseason. The clincher: Boston tops Toronto 6-3 Video: Jon Lester, Red Sox celebrate
The controversial ousting of long-time skipper Terry Francona following the 2011 season left the Red Sox in need of a new manager who could regain "control of the clubhouse." After a failed experiment in 2012 that saw Bobby Valentine lead the team to its worst season in 18 years, going 69-93, Boston wisely hired John Farrell. The former Red Sox pitching coach, who managed the Toronto Blue Jays last season, was back in Beantown — and he brought the BoSox out of the AL East cellar and is one of the leading candidates for AL Manager of the Year.
With many new faces in the clubhouse including a new manager, the Sox badly needed their franchise players Dustin Pedroia (right) and David Ortiz (left) to serve as the team’s backbone. And they delivered. Pedroia has batted .301 this year with nine homers, 83 RBI, 87 runs, 186 hits and 17 stolen bases, while Ortiz has contributed his usual .308 average with 28 homers, 97 RBI, 78 runs, and 152 hits. Both have won World Series with the club (Pedroia '07 and Ortiz '04, '07) and it's that type of experience Boston will need if it wants to get back to the promised land. — Statistics through Sept. 20.
Koji Uehara, a 38-year-old soft-tossing closer, has filled in beautifully after injuries to Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan left the team without a steady arm to finish off games. Uehara actually has been nothing short of amazing, converting 20 of 23 save opportunities with a 1.14 ERA, 0.58 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 ratio. At one point he threw 12 perfect innings over an 11-appearance stretch. It's no wonder his teammates call him "The Ninja" and claim he has a "sixth sense." — Statistics through Sept. 20.
The Red Sox didn't set the world on fire with their roster moves in the offseason, but they grabbed some sneaky good players (Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Mike Carp, Koji Uehara and Jonny Gomes) with "a very particular set of skills" who have been key to their first postseason birth since 2009.
There's just absolutely no way the Red Sox would have made the postseason if not for the communal beard growth. How else would they have celebrated anything? With hi-fives? Get real.