The Boston Red Sox made it through the obstacle-ridden first half of the 2010 season. They've made it through the best of times and the worst of times. And they are still chugging along in the intensely competitive AL East division.
There have been many unsung heroes that have become household names among Boston fans during the first half of the season. Players we wouldn?t have been able to pick out of a lineup back in April, we now praise as the ones who carried the team to the All-Star break.
But who will be the player to take the reins in the second half of the season? Through the difficult West Coast road trip in July, the intense battles with the AL East in August and the last stands in September?
Numbers don't lie, and no one has put up better ones in the second half of the season than designated hitter David Ortiz. Big Papi is riding high after his Home Run Derby win — when he smashed 32 homers into the crowds of Angel Stadium — and has hit more home runs in August and September than any other months in his career. It was clear from his mentality and charisma during the Derby that he was feeling it, and it was good for Sox fans to catch a glimpse of the jolly old Ortiz. Historically, Papi has done well to carry the team and has come through in clutch situations, but will he repeat those heroic actions in 2010?
With his steely glare atop the web of his glove, Red Sox starter Jon Lester has been a steady force on the mound throughout the first half of the season. His dependable performance continued during his All-Star appearance, and there are already chants of "Cy Young! Cy Young!" echoing throughout the streets of Boston. Lester definitely has what it takes to put the team on his back, because he has already done so throughout the first half. Who's to say he can't be this season's hero? He's got the numbers to back it up — 11 wins, 2.78 ERA — and the heat behind his pitches to continue to blow his opponents away.
Fueled by three extra days' rest after being All-Star snubbed, Kevin Youkilis could be the player to take the second-half Sox to the next level. Youk has yet to let Sox fans down this season, and even played through ankle issues before the All-Star break. His tough exterior and put-the-team-before-himself attitude will definitely help during the difficult road trips and AL East series ahead. Performing well from the plate (.293 average, 18 HR) and in the field (.997 fielding percentage), Youkillis is far and away one of the top performers in the clubhouse.
Or will it be one of Boston's returnees? With Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Victor Martinez all slated to return from the DL within the next month, could one of them take it upon himself to lead the team into the second half? They all have the power and capability to do so, but it's all dependent on how they'll bounce back from injury.
It's evident from the first half of the season that the Red Sox are a team to be reckoned with, and though they're five games back, they're bound to come off the All-Star break determined to close that gap. But which player will take them to the next level to contend for the postseason?
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