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April 27, 2013

It's first place or bust for Red Sox

The season still is very young, but it seems the surging Boston Red Sox have as good a chance as anyone to win the AL East.

You could also make a case for any of the five AL East teams finishing in last. That’s the type of parity that exists.

With the new two-per-league Wild Card format implemented last year, the goal for any team is to win its division to bypass a one-game playoff scenario. But the way some AL East players see it, winning the division to get to the playoffs might be necessary.

That’s because the two AL Wild Cards likely could come from the West with Oakland, Texas and Los Angeles all with tremendously talented rosters.

Yes, the Angels are off to another very disappointing start, but any team with that kind of lineup (Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, etc.) can turn things around quickly.

“Anyone can win it,” Baltimore’s Nate McLouth said about the AL East. “What I think is going to be tough is for a Wild Card team to come out of here just because there’s a lot of good teams and we play each other so much.”

Divisional opponents play each other 19 times each and that could cause some AL East teams to knock one another out of Wild Card contention.

Meanwhile, the Athletics, Rangers and Angels all will be able to pick up a large number of wins against their much inferior divisional rivals, the Astros and Mariners.

But just because a team like the Angels has a talented roster, doesn’t mean it will make the playoffs. We saw that last year with Los Angeles and two years ago with Boston.

New York, which many expected would suffer through a tough April because of numerous injuries, has been a big surprise. So have the Red Sox because their starting pitching has been excellent. The big question for the Red Sox going forth is whether they will get more innings out of their fourth and fifth starters.

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