Boston Red Sox

Sean McAdam: Previewing the A.L. West

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Sean McAdam: Previewing the A.L. West

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

For most of the last decade, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ruled the West, winning the World Series in 2002, the division title six times and going to the ALCS as recently as 2009.

But no more. Texas beat out the Angels last year and after a winter in which the Angels struggled to find someone -- anyone! -- to take their money, the case could be made that they're now the third-best team in the division.

Under new ownership, the Rangers have demonstrated a willingness to spend like the big-market team they are. Meanwhile, if the A's ever get a new ballpark, they, too, could become more of a force. As it is, their pitching staff should keep them in contention.

(IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER):

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: The offense must get better - and quickly. The Angels scored 202 fewer runs last year than they did before. Overpriced though he may be, Vernon Wells will help, and so, too, will the return of first baseman Kendry Morales, who missed the last four months with a broken leg.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: The two high-priced trade acquisitions in the last two years -- Scott Kazmir and Dan Haren -- can't underperform. The Angels have too much money (almost 25 million this year alone) to have that happen again.

BIGGEST ADDITION: OF Vernon Wells
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: C Mike Napoli
ROOKIE TO WATCH: C Hank Conger

Oakland A's

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: The additions made in the off-season (David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui) must support the pitching staff better. The A's were second-to-last in homers in the A.L. and hit just .241 with runners in scoring position.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: The young starters can't regress. The A's rotation is talented but still relatively inexperienced. Only Dallas Braden will begin the season older than 25.

BIGGEST ADDITION: OF David DeJesus
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: DH Jack Cust
ROOKIE TO WATCH: OF Michael Taylor

Seattle Mariners

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: New manager Eric Wedge must gain control of the club. The team was full of turmoil last year, with naps in the clubhouse and fistfights in the dugout. That can't continue if the Mariners are to improve.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: Felix Hernandez can't struggle for runs the way he did a season ago when his teammates scored seven runs in his 12 losses. Another frustrating year like that could do damage to Hernandez's psyche.

BIGGEST ADDITION: C Miguel Olivo
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: INF Jose Lopez
ROOKIE TO WATCH: 2B Dustin Ackley.

Texas Rangers

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: Someone must step up and help fill the void left by the departure of Cliff Lee. Maybe Tommy Hunter will mature, or Neftali Feliz will transition from the bullpen or maybe the Rangers will get a comeback season from Brandon Webb.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: The Rangers can't battle injuries like they did a year ago. Ian Kinsler and MVP Josh Hamilton must stay on the field and in the lineup if the Rangers are going to repeat as division champs.

BIGGEST ADDITION: 3B Adrian Beltre
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: LHP Cliff Lee
ROOKIE TO WATCH: RHP Tanner Scheppers

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.

Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.

Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN. 

Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."

The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.