Who Are Potential Threats To the Boston Red Sox?

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Boston Red Sox: From Worst To First

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Winslow Townson-USA Today Sports

After clinching their first AL East title since 2007, the Boston Red Sox are gearing up for the postseason with five more regular season games left on their schedule.

Last season, the Red Sox had their worst record since 1965 (62-100) under controversial manager Bobby Valentine. Boston finished with a 69-93 record and last place in the AL East. They spent this past offseason stocking up on talent in an upcoming seas,on where expectations were at an all time low. Many believed that this would be a bridge year for Boston and nobody expected the Red Sox to accomplish what they have under manager John Farrell.

Farrell was the former pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007-10. He then signed a three year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 to be their manager. The Blue Jays finished with an even 81-81 record in 2011 and fourth in the AL East. In 2012, things got worse. Toronto finished with a 73-89 record and again, last in their division. This led to to the Blue Jays releasing Farrell from the final year of his contract, and trading him back to the Red Sox in exchange for infielder Mike Aviles as compensation. Since returning to Boston, Farrell has changed the entire outlook of the clubhouse and has turned things around for the better.

Though they may be focused on getting to the milestone of 100 wins, the Red Sox may need to shift their focus over to the Wild Card race. The Tampa Bay Rays, the Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers, the New York Yankees, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals are all amongst teams that may be potential threats to a Boston championship. The question is, which team do the Red Sox want to face?

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Tampa Bay Rays

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Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are currently leading the Wild Card race with an 86-69 record. They are on a three game winning streak and looking to finish out a series with the Baltimore Orioles who are 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. Despite seeing inconsistency in a multitude of players like David Price, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, their consistent play as at team overall is what has helped propel them.

Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, that success hasn't seemed to transfer over well when playing the Red Sox, as they have only won seven out of 19 games on the season in six series.

If the Red Sox do end up having to face the Rays, then history is not on their side. Tampa Bay and Boston have only met once in the postseason, in the 2008 AL Championship series. The Red Sox fell 4-3 to the Rays who went to the World Series, only to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies. But it has been five long years since their last playoff meeting and the 2013 Sox are a whole different ball club. It will be interesting to see if the "New Look Sox" can continue their season of dominance over the Rays.

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Cleveland Indians

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David Richard-USA Today Sports

The Cleveland Indians have been a sleeper team all season long as they are currently 86-70 and are a half game behind the Rays in the Wild Card. After a mediocre season last year finishing with a 68-94 record and last in the AL Central, Cleveland went on a "fire sale" this past offseason parting ways with Manager Manny Acta and hiring former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona. Francona has brought personality to Cleveland and has helped change the presence in the clubhouse with the signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, who have brought much needed offensive help. Despite their great regular season, like many teams in the American League, they haven't had the best of luck against the Red Sox.

The Indians were swept by the Sox in Francona's first series against his former team. Cleveland has only won one game against Boston all season long going 1-for-7 in two series. In regards to postseason success, the Indians and the Red Sox have squared off against each other four times throughout the years with each team taking two series. In recent history, though, the Red Sox were able to knock off the Indians in the 2007 AL Championship series 4-3, en route to their seventh World Series title and their second of the decade, defeating the Colorado Rockies 4-0.

Terry Francona had a 22-9 (.710 winning percentage) postseason record with the Red Sox, which is the highest winning percentage among managers who have managed at least 20 postseason games. We will see if can use it to his advantage to defeat his former club.

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Texas Rangers

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Peter Aiken-USA Today Sports

The Texas Rangers are in unfamiliar territory as they are fighting for a spot in the playoffs. The Rangers are currently 84-71 and are 1.5 games out of the Wild Card. After a damaging offseason, losing star Josh Hamilton (AL MVP and ALCS MVP in 2010) to the division rival LA Angels expectations were still high for Texas entering 2013. With a rotation led by Japanese sensation Yu Darvish, who is currently 13-9 with a 2.81 ERA and a lineup led by consistent slugger Adrian Beltre, who is batting .318 with 28 HR and 88 RBI, the Rangers were still favorites to win the AL West.

Unfortunately that has not been the case as the surprise Oakland Athletics have been neck and neck with Texas all season long and were only two games behind them at the end of August. However, it has been Oakland's strong September that has really separated them from the competition. The A's have gone 16-5 (best in AL) while the Rangers have gone 4-15 facing a "September Collapse" and ultimately losing the AL West.

If the Rangers do in fact make the postseason, then they will have a regular season advantage over the Red Sox. The Rangers have won four out of six games against the Sox and won the majority of the series. Though they have never gone toe to toe in the postseason, it will be an interesting match-up to say the least.

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New York Yankees

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Robert Deutsch-USA Today Sports

The New York Yankees, on the other hand, may find themselves missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. After finishing with a 95-67 record and first in the AL East last season, injuries and inconsistency have plagued them in 2013 as they are currently 82-74 and four games out of the Wild Card. C.C Sabathia has had a forgettable season as he has gone 14-13 along with a surprisingly high 4.78 ERA, and the lineup hasn't been able to stay consistent or healthy enough to make much of an impact. The only reliable Yankee, to this point, has been Robinson Cano who is batting .314 with 27 HR and 105 RBI.

Despite their poor performance overall, and only winning six out of 19 games against the Red Sox this season, the Yankees have been fairly successful against Boston in the postseason. Surprisingly though, they have only faced off three times in the past 12 years.

New York has beaten Boston in two out of three AL Championship series. The only time the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees was in the 2004 AL Championship Series. The Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

If the Yankees were to make a late surge and somehow sneak their way into the playoffs, then rebooting this classic Red Sox/Yankee rivalry would be an entertaining match up to watch. Especially considering that this is Mariano Riviera's final season.

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Baltimore Orioles

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Mark Konezny-USA Today Sports

The Baltimore Orioles are currently 4.5 games out of the Wild Card and continue to tread downward as they are on a four game losing streak. They are 81-74 on the season and have been led by the hot bat of All-Star Chris Davis. Davis is currently batting .286 with 51 HR and 134 RBI. Though he has carried the Orioles all season long, he can't carry them into the playoffs without any additional help.

The Orioles may be struggling to get into the postseason, but they have practically owned the Red Sox all year long winning nine out of 16 games against Boston in five series.

Though both teams have never faced off in the playoffs, there is still some bad blood between the two. We all remember the Orioles ending the Red Sox season in 2011's historic September collapse. Fortunately, Boston may be able to get some revenge as they face off with Baltimore in the final series of the season, which may in fact decide the Orioles' postseason fate.

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Kansas City Royals

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Peter Aiken-USA Today Sports

The Kansas City Royals are a team that many expected to be bottom feeders in their division. In fact, the complete opposite has happened as they are currently 82-73 and continue to roll having gone 13-20 in September. They find themselves 3.5 games out of the Wild Card and have been led offensively by the 23 year old Eric Hosmer, who is batting a sufficient .304 with 17 HR and 78 RBI.

Along with their solid production, the Royals have dominated the Red Sox this season in two series, winning five out of seven games. If they do end up making it into the postseason and have to cross paths with the Red Sox, then they have a regular season advantage.

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