10. The Banged-Up New York Yankees
Picked to be AL East favorite, the Yankees instead were hit by crippling injuries to a half-dozen or more key contributors. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixiera, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were sidelined for either most of the season or a significant portion of it. That the team remained in contention for the postseason up until the last two weeks of the season is a credit to manager Joe Girardi.
9. Evan Gattis Emerges Out of Nowhere
Barely an afterthought when spring training began, 27-year old rookie Evan Gattis benefitted from Brian McCann’s early injury to earn a slot with Atlanta. His power from the right side helped the Braves get off to a blistering start and although he eventually cooled down, he finished among the NL’s rookie leaders in HRs and RBIs.
8. Max Scherzer’s Dominance
Frequently overshadowed by Justin Verlander, Scherzer emerged as one of the top aces in the AL. Verlander was up and down, but Scherzer dominated from the start, breaking out to a 13-0 start, earning the starter’s role in the All-Star Game for the junior circuit. He went on to a 19-1 start and finished at 21-3, leading Detroit to the AL Central title.
7. Big Expectations Fall Flat With the Angels
A year after signing big money free agents C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols, the Angels opened up their checkbook again to corral Texas slugger Josh Hamilton, leading to predictions that they would run away with the AL West title. Instead, the team got off to a miserable start, with Hamilton hitting under .200 through the early schedule. Pujols, plagued by nagging injuries, wasn’t much better and played barely half the season before being shut down.
6. Chris Davis Goes Long
Following his 2012 breakout season (33 HRs), expectations for similar numbers for the slugging Baltimore first baseman weren’t surprising, but with a major-league record 16 RBIs in the season’s first four games, “Crush” was easily the big early-season buzz around MLB. Davis would go on to lead the majors in homers (53), RBIs (138), extra-base hits (96) and total bases (370).
5. Matt Harvey Gives the Mets Hope For the Future
Ever since he set a Met’s franchise record with 11 strikeouts in his 2012 major-league debut, expectations surrounding Matt Harvey bordered on the ridiculous. With 19 strikeouts in his first two 2013 starts, the hype surrounding the 24-year old appeared to be valid. Harvey earned NL Pitcher of the Month for April and was named the NL’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game at the Met’s home ballpark, Citi Field. In late August, Harvey was shut down after being diagnosed with a UCL right elbow tear and underwent Tommy John surgery in October and is expected to miss the 2014 season.
4. Pirates End Twenty-Year Postseason Drought
The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates participated in the postseason was 1992, and late-season collapses in recent seasons appeared to jinx the once-proud franchise. In 2013 however, the Bucs never eased off on the gas pedal and eventually snapped the longest under- .500 streak in North American professional sports history by clinching a winning record in early September. The team subsequently earned a Wild Card spot in the NL postseason.
3. Puig Energizes the Dodgers
On June 3rd, the high-payroll Dodgers were struggling with injuries and subpar performances and were being written off as NL West contenders. When Yasiel Puig joined the lineup that evening, one of modern baseball’s most impressive turnarounds was hatched, with the 22-year old Cuban defector breaking out with one of the more productive first months in history. He would go on to put up numbers second only to Joe DiMaggio in his first month, as well as being the first player in MLB history to be named Player of the Month in their very first month. Puig helped the Dodgers to the NL West title, finishing with a .319 average, 19 HRs and 42 RBIs.
2. A Most Unusual Ending
Game Three of the World Series, bottom of the ninth, score tied with one out and runners on second and third. Cardinal OF Jon Jay hit a sharp driver to Boston second-sacker Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia threw home to erase baserunner Yadier Molina, followed by C Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw to 3B in an attempt to end the inning by getting Allen Craig out. Instead, the throw sailed into left field, and when Craig arose to race home, he stumbled and fell over 3B Will Middlebrooks. Craig was easily thrown out, but 3B umpire Jim Joyce ruled obstruction on Middlebrooks, allowing Craig to be awarded home with the winning run. Such a play had never occurred in postseason history.
1. From Worst to First
Expectations were somewhat lowered following a miserable last-place 2012 season for the Boston Red Sox, but the Boston Marathon tragedy appeared to inspire and spur the Bosox into one of the franchise’s most dramatic turnarounds in their history. Led by veteran slugger David Ortiz and a group of bearded journeymen, Boston swept through the American League with clutch hitting and timely pitching. The “Dream Season” culminated with a 4-2 World Series triumph over St. Louis, with Ortiz turning in one of the Fall Classic’s most memorable performances.