1995 Red Sox (86-58)
The 1995 work stoppage was a continuation of the 1994 player strike, as the dispute remained unresolved headed into April of the following season. Only when the owners threatened to start the season with replacement players did the players finally agree to negotiate. The day before Opening Day was supposed to be played, the strike ended, and a 144 game season was hastily scheduled.
It’s a good thing that the regular players came back because the Red Sox surprised everyone by winning the AL East. Mo Vaughn raised his already elite game to the next level, taking home MVP honors by hitting 39 home runs and driving in 126. He was far from the only slugger in the Red Sox lineup, as John Valentin (.298/.399/.533, 27 HR, 102 RBI) and new acquisition Jose Canseco (.306/.378/.556, 24 HR, 81 RBI) were terrific as well. The Red Sox finished second in the AL in average, on-base percentage, and OPS, trailing only the historic Cleveland Indians.
Things looked far bleaker for the pitching staff when ace Roger Clemens was sidelined with injuries and had a 5.81 ERA through July. Yet unexpected performances from newcomer Tim Wakefield (16-8, 2.95 ERA) and closer Rick Aguilera (20 saves, 2.67 ERA) stabilized the staff, and Clemens’s strong second half (9-3, 2.88 ERA from August 1 on) helped push the Red Sox past the Yankees.
Even with all the stars on the 1995 Red Sox, they were no match for the high-powered Indians in the ALDS. They actually led Game One headed into the bottom of the 11th, but Albert Belle tied the game with a solo shot off Aguilera, and Tony Pena’s 13th inning blast gave the Indians a 1-0 series lead. Orel Hershiser shut out the Red Sox for 7 1/3 innings in Game Two, and they rolled to an 8-2 win in Game Three to close out a series sweep.