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Baseball 2013: Bosox win, Rivera exits, now replay

Sunday - 11/3/2013, 8:34am  ET

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez arrives at the offices of Major League Baseball in New York, for his grievance hearing. (AP Photo/David Karp, File)

BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer

David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes and those bearded Boston Red Sox became the face of October, making for a most hairy joyride to the World Series championship.

The Red Sox reversed course and went from worst to first. Major League Baseball also saw big shifts this year -- many bright, others more dark -- at a time when the game could be transformed forever.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, at long last, found the winning touch. Mariano Rivera went out in style. But the sweeping Biogenesis suspensions showed the sport is far from drug-free. And the acrimony between Alex Rodriguez and MLB seems to get worse every day.

Plus, a whopping change coming up in what's expected to be Bud Selig's final season as commissioner: Instant replay will settle most disputes, rather than nose-to-nose rhubarbs between managers and umpires.

A look around the bases at 2013 and beyond:

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I'LL TAKE ANOTHER: Ball. Foul. Ball. Foul. Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava and the Red Sox elevated the art of taking pitches and hitting foul balls to a new level, drawing cheers at Fenway from fans who appreciated their plate prowess. Boston wound up taking its third crown in a decade -- fittingly, World Series MVP Big Papi drew four walks in the Game 6 clincher against St. Louis. Winning trends tend to be copied, so look for more patient teams to wait for their pitch next year.

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AHOY!: The rise of the Pirates inspired just about everyone in the majors. After 20 straight losing years, Andrew McCutchen, Clint Hurdle and this band of Buccos reclaimed Pittsburgh as a baseball town. They came within a win of reaching the NLCS. Now they need to stay on top -- not an easy trick, either. The Nats and O's both fell off their playoff form. Cleveland and Kansas City are on their way, they hope.

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THE GOODBYE GUYS: Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte all played for the last time. Colorado gave Helton a retirement gift he could ride into the sunset -- a champion horse. Pettitte came up with his own treat -- in his final outing, he pitched his first complete game in seven years. Rivera made a touching farewell tour, and the Minnesota Twins found a perfect present -- a rocking chair made of broken bats, a tribute to Mo's devastating cutter. At 43, the all-time saves leader had tears in his eyes at Yankee Stadium when teammates Derek Jeter and Pettitte walked to the mound to pull him. "It's time to go," Jeter told his friend.

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MATTINGLY'S HERE, FOR NOW: In June, it appeared Don Mattingly was on the verge of being fired as manager of the last-place Dodgers. Then, Yasiel Puig! The excitable Cuban rookie became the talk of baseball with his unbridled play, Los Angeles breezed to the playoffs and Donnie Baseball's job was safe. But Puig fell flat in the NLCS finale loss at St. Louis, and Mattingly's status is uncertain once again.

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HOUSTON, WE HAVE PROBLEMS: The Astros won the MLB opener, prompting some to dismiss dire predictions for the AL rookies. Reality quickly set in -- in their next game, Texas' Yu Darvish came within one out of a perfect game. Overmatched nearly every day, low-budget Houston went 51-111, lost its final 15 games and set a big league record for strikeouts.

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GEMS: Homer Bailey and Tim Lincecum pitched no-hitters in July. On the final day of the regular season, Henderson Alvarez celebrated his no-no in most unusual fashion. He was standing in the on-deck circle with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when a wild pitch by Detroit gave the Marlins a 1-0 win and put Alvarez in the record book.

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MEN WILL BE BOYS: It was throw-down night at Dodger Stadium in June when a throwback brawl broke out between All-Stars from 1980s and '90s. Managers Kirk Gibson and Don Mattingly, along with coaches Mark McGwire and Matt Williams got heated up after Arizona and Los Angeles threw at each other.

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CLOSING TIME: Koji Uehara became a sure thing in Boston, only after closers Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan got hurt. Uehara had been good in the past, but nothing like this. And a year before, the Rays' Fernando Rodney suddenly became unhittable. Maybe a new pitch makes them all-World. Whatever, you can bet fantasy players are already scouring the stats for sleepers, trying to find the next guy who will blossom into a beastly closer.

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