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October 31, 2013

A win that was hard to imagine

BOSTON — Who would’ve thunk it?

Honestly, back in March, I’ll tell you how many. Maybe one.

“My expectations of our team didn’t change from last spring training to this one,” said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia before last night’s 6-1 clincher. “Our goal, your goal playing for the Red Sox every year, is to try to be at this point and win the World Series.”

OK, the other 10 million or so of us who live in the confines of Red Sox Nation had no such thoughts or premonitions. None.

And nobody could blame us.

Sure, we knew this team was going to be more likeable, with the acquisition of more than a half-dozen good guys, but the three most expensive acquisitions — Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster — were coming off career-worst seasons.

Not only that, but in a sport that obsesses about percentages, there were enough question marks in key spots — starting pitching, bullpen, power hitting and manager — to pick the Red Sox for fourth or fifth place in the always-rugged American League East division.

And that’s just where most baseball people had them.

But we were all wrong.

It started with “Come back and talk to me on May 1.” Then the date was pushed back to June 1, the All-Star break in mid-July, then September 1 and the postseason.

In fact, it was argued every step of the way, versus Tampa Bay, Detroit and St. Louis, the Red Sox didn’t have the pitching to line up with all of them. It was a good argument.

But then the games were played, and the “Who’s Who” list of starting pitchers, most of whom are past, current or future Cy Young Award winners included Tampa Bay’s young guys of Matt Moore, David Price and Alex Cobb, followed by Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anabel Sanchez and, most recently, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn.

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